Rick Wilkins (tenor saxophone, arranger, composer, conductor) was born in 1937, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He is widely recognized as one of the country’s most accomplished saxophonists, and among the most consummate arrangers and conductors in the world. In 2003, he was awarded both the Order of Canada and the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in recognition of his genius over more than five decades on the international music scene.
He became one of the leading writers and arrangers for CBC-TV Variety, working with stars such as Tommy Ambrose, Juliette, and Wayne & Shuster. After Buddy Greco borrowed one of Rick’s charts for a successful appearance on “TheEd Sullivan Show”, Greco invited Rick to write several arrangements for his big band “book” and ultimately, asked Rick to conduct for him at the Copacabana in New York during the summer of 1962. While earning his living as an arranger in TV variety, Rick continued to exercise his saxophone jazz chops by playing with Rob McConnell and Ed Bickert at jazz venues, including George’s Spaghetti House.
He was invited to join Rob McConnell and The Boss Brass in 1970, remaining with that band as a player and frequent writer for the remaining 30 years of the band’s life. Around the same time, he partnered with Tommy Ambrose, Doug Riley, and Larry Trudel in the jingle business, also providing arrangements for Tommy’s gospel radio and TV series “Celebration”.
Wilkins provided the string arrangement for Anne Murray’s “Snowbird”, and “You Needed Me” which reached #1 on the billboard charts in 1978. From 1976-77 he worked in Los Angeles as Music Director on “The Jacksons” starring The Jackson Five. He returned to Canada to arrange and conduct Oscar Peterson’s “Canadiana Suite” for CBC-TV, continuing a working relationship with Oscar which began in 1970 and lasted for more than 30 years of collaboration on recordings, television, and film projects.
In1988, he was commissioned to compose and conduct the opening 13 minutes of the Calgary Olympic Games. He also scored and rescored the “Hockey Night in Canada” theme. He has written, arranged, and conducted or some of the best including Louie Bellson, Peggy Lee, George Shearing, Celine Dion, Oliver Jones, Ranee Lee, John McDermott, Rob McConnell, Kenny Wheeler, and many others.
In 2002 he was named a Member of the Order of Canada and from 2005 to 2008, received the National Jazz Awards nominee in the “Arranger of the Year category”.
“Them There Eyes” with Rob McConnell(trombone) Ed Bickert(guitar) Kieran Overs(bass) Jerry Fuller(drums)
“You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” with Ed Bicker(guitar) Don Thompson(bass) Buff Allen(drums)
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