Guido Basso, CM, flugelhornist, trumpeter, arranger, composer, conductor, harmonica player (born 27 September 1937 in Montreal, QC; died 13 February 2023 in Toronto). One of Canada’s pre-eminent jazz trumpeters, Guido Basso was also known for the lyricism of his flugelhorn work. He was credited with the theory that one attacks the trumpet and makes love to a flugelhorn. Basso appeared on some 30 recordings by the Boss Brass, and on albums by Anne Murray, Ian Tyson, Holly Cole, Lenny Solomon, Oliver Jones and others. Basso’s Lost in the Stars won the 2004 Juno Award for Traditional Jazz Album of the Year. He was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1994.
Basso began playing trumpet at age nine, studying at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal. In his teens, under the name Stubby Basso, he worked in dance and show bands led by Al Nichols, Maury Kaye and others. While playing at the club El Morocco with Kaye, he was heard by American singer Vic Damone, who took him on the road in 1957–58. Basso then worked throughout North America from 1958 to 1960 with singer Pearl Bailey and the orchestra led by her husband, drummer Louis Bellson.
In 1960, Basso settled in Toronto, becoming a first-call studio musician trumpeter and bandleader. He also took assignments as a harmonica player. Basso was music director for CBLT's Nightcap (1963–67) and for CBC-TV's Barris and Company (1968–69). He also co-starred in 1969 with vibraphonist Peter Appleyard on CBC-TV's Mallets and Brass. Basso was music director for CBC Radio's After Noon (1969–71) and led orchestras for two CBC-TV series devoted to the big band era: In the Mood (1971–72) and Bandwagon (1972–73). In 1975, he organized big bands for concerts at the CNE featuring Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Goodman.
Basso performed in Toronto nightclubs and hotel lounges with his own small groups, several of which mixed jazz and Latin music. Basso was also an important soloist with the Boss Brass (of which he was a founding member), the Rob McConnell Tentet, Nimmons'N' Nine Plus Six, and the big bands of Ron Collier and others. With the downturn in studio work in the late 1970s, Basso began to lead what would become one of Toronto's most popular society orchestras.
Despite his pre-eminence among Canadian jazz trumpeters, Basso was reticent to work in that idiom. As he explained to author Bill King in 2016, “I thought I wanted to be a jazz musician, but then the better lifestyle won out. To some ‘jazzniks,’ that was selling out. It’s not selling out — I chose my lifestyle. It’s even more frustrating that you’re in a commercial world trying to be still a jazz artist — many mental and emotional battles go on within. There’s a price for everything. Jazz, for me, is a luxury. I have to be able to afford to play jazz.”
Nevertheless, Basso known for the lyricism of his flugelhorn work on jazz ballads, a reputation taken far afield by his recordings with the Boss Brass. He was equally capable of incisive trumpeting in the bebop style. He was credited with the theory that one attacks the trumpet and makes love to a flugelhorn.
Basso did not make his first jazz recording under his own name until 1986, with Guido Basso. He followed that with collaborative efforts with Doug Riley (A Lazy Afternoon, Mel Tormé, Holly Cole, Gene Lees, Jean-Pierre Ferland, Ranee Lee, Lenny Solomon, and Oliver Jones.1997) and Dave Turner (Midnight Martini, 1997). Basso’s record Lost in the Stars won the 2004 Juno Award for Traditional Jazz Album of the Year.
As a sideman, Basso appeared on some 30 recordings by the Boss Brass, as well as on more than 200 albums by such diverse performers as Anne Murray, Ian Tyson, Mel Tormé, Holly Cole, Gene Lees, Jean-Pierre Ferland, Ranee Lee, Lenny Solomon, and Oliver Jones.