Ed Bickert was born in Hochfeld, Manitoba on November 29th, 1932, and raised in Vernon, British Columbia. His early interest in guitar was in part influenced by his musical household (his mother and father played piano and guitar in country bands). He was self-taught, developing an interest in jazz harmony by studying and analyzing Stan Kenton records. Via radio broadcasts from the American West Coast, he heard and was influenced by Nat King Cole Trio guitarist Oscar Moore, Barney Kessel and Les Paul. In his early teens he gained experience by playing onstage with his parents.
In 1952 Ed moved to Toronto, working as a radio station engineer and playing after-hours jazz clubs on the side. Shy and retiring, he was slow to work himself into the Toronto jazz circuit, but by 1955 he was a regular club performer — and in 1957, he made his first studio recording date, appearing on Moe Koffman's fluke hit single Swinging Shepherd Blues.
In the 60s, Ed worked regularly with Koffman and other major figures of Canadian jazz. He was invited to be a founding member of Rob McConnell's Boss Brass in 1968 and has played with that unit ever since, as well as becoming increasingly in demand as a session guitarist.
In 1974, on the recommendation of the legendary Jim Hall, the equally legendary Paul Desmond sought out Ed to form a performing quartet, marking Desmond's return to the musical stage after an absence of seven years. Desmond, a jazz star who had seen the world and played with the best, was utterly blown away by Ed's playing, and determined to record with him; this marked Ed's first session for an American label, with consequent wider exposure. During the next three years [Desmond's last], the Desmond-Bickert quartet performed frequently, and many of these gigs were recorded. (Lucky for us! Paul and Ed brought out the best in each other, and their records together constitute a high-water mark in jazz.) In 1979, Ed recorded a duo album with his fellow Desmond Quartet alumnus Don Thompson — the album won the 1980 Juno Award for Best Jazz Recording of the Year.