Rob McConnell took up the valve trombone in high school, and began his performing career in the early 1950s, performing and studying with Don Thompson, Bobby Gimby, and later, with fellow Canadian Maynard Ferguson. In 1968 he formed The Boss Brass, a big band that would become his primary performing and recording unit through the 1970s and 1980s.
In 1988, McConnell took a teaching position at the Dick Grove School of Music in California, but gave up his position and returned to Canada a year later. In 1997, McConnell was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and in 1998 was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. Since that time he has remained active, touring internationally both as a performer and educator, running clinics around the world and performing as both a leader and a guest artist. The newly formed Rob McConnell tentet has been quite successful, producing three major records, The Rob McConnell Tentet (2000), Thank You, Ted (2002), and Music of the Twenties (2003).
McConnell assembled the original Boss Brass from Toronto studio musicians. The instrumentation of the band was originally 16 pieces, consisting of trumpets, trombones, french horns, and a rhythm section, but no saxophones. McConnell introduced a saxophone section in 1970, and expanded the trumpet section to include a fifth trumpet in 1976, bringing the total to 22 members.
Over the years, Rob McConnell & The Boss Brass became one of Canada's most popular jazz ensembles, performing live and recording for Concord Jazz and a variety of other labels. Mel Tormé has said, of his first recording session with the Boss Brass in 1987, "Making this record was one of the two or three greatest musical experiences in my long and checkered career." Recordings made by Rob McConnell & the Boss Brass include: