Born in Fredericton and schooled in Nova Scotia, Bruce Cassidy made the leap into jazz in the late 1950s, getting his start in Montreal in the company of trumpeters Herbie Spanier, Guido Basso and pianist Joe Sealy. After a period of study at Berklee College of Music in Boston he moved to Toronto and was soon performing at Toronto’s main jazz venues and in studios, including the first seven albums released by Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass.
He started out with trumpet as his first performance instrument and is today also one of the world’s foremost performers on the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument), a wind synthesizer invented by Nyle Steiner. He wrote and recorded the first orchestral concerto for this instrument and with it has performed the Ondes Martenot solo part in Olivier Messiaen’s Turangulila Symphony with the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra.
His love of variety led to extended playing, recording and touring with Doug Riley’s Dr. Music, Lighthouse and, the fusion band Blood, Sweat and Tears for which he contributed compositions and arrangements for their last two albums. Artists with whom he has appeared in concert include Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones, Dionne Warwick, Anne Murray, Marvin Gaye, Chucho Valdez, and various symphony orchestras, including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
After a world tour in 1980 Bruce moved to South Africa and immersed himself in the African music scene. He wrote and produced music for orchestral concerts, film, television and international dance competitions. Under the auspices of the South African Department of Arts and Culture he composed and produced an opera based on African Xhosa folklore, The Clay Flute, and produced a number of concerts for European artists and the SA internationally renowned opera singer Sibongile Khumalo. His latest album production in South Africa was Our World, a modern orchestral/jazz outing for the renowned Soweto String Quartet. In 1995 he was contracted to return to South Africa to lead an international big band at the National Arts Festival there.
His own projects in South Africa include:
Timeless, an award winning duo which combined the EVI, with the ancient instrument specialist Pops Mohamed which toured Scandanavia and central European countries
The Body Electric (a group focused on the healing power of music, and
A 10 piece band, the Hotfoot Orchestra which has taken root here in Toronto with the finest local musicians.
Since Bruce’s return to Toronto in 2003, he has produced, with his Los Angeles partner Ken Wiley, the first jazz play-along book for French horn.
He has also arranged Joe Zawinul’s classic “Birdland” for 16 french horns, and has written arrangements for Rick Morrison’s band The Carnival of Souls
Bruce has formed and recorded a new, expanded band for Blood Sweat and Tears vocalist David Clayton-Thomas for whom is now musical director.