The great Canadian jazz guitarist Ed Bickert, renowned for his five-decade career as one of the top players in Toronto — and the world — died on Thursday. He was 86.

Born in Manitoba on Nov. 29, 1932, Bickert grew up in Vernon, B.C., and moved to Toronto in 1952 to pursue a career in music, beginning as a radio engineer and then starting to work as a club performer and session musician. From the mid-‘70s until his retirement in 2000, he recorded more than a dozen albums as a band leader and more than 50 records as a sideman for Paul Desmond, Rosemary Clooney, Peter Appleyard, Moe Koffman, Phil Nimmons, Rob McConnell, Ron Collier and more.

Bickert quietly became the “secret superhero” of jazz guitar, as one guitarist and educator put it. His appearance on Desmond’s 1974 album Pure Desmond launched his international recording career. He was a rare case, in those days, of a Canadian jazz musician breaking onto the international scene while remaining based in Toronto.