Jazz: The Gerald Wilson Orchestra

I’ve listened to and enjoyed the music of the Gerald Wilson Orchestra for years. I’ve never been disappointed by what I heard. I have heard them live once, at the Playboy Jazz Festival in the Hollywood Bowl, sometime in the Eighties, I think.

I decided recently that I should pick up a few of Wilson’s albums I didn’t have (above). What a treat! Here are a couple of tastes,

from the album State Street Sweet: the title tune, “State Street Sweet”

and “Nancy Jo”

Here are the Wilson Orchestra albums/collections I have, and I’ve been listening to them a lot lately. All highly recommended!

  • The Complete Pacific Jazz Recordings Of Gerald Wilson And His Orchestra (Mosaic Records #MD5-198, 2000) – note: includes all the material (10 albums worth) that Gerald’s big band recorded during the 1960s decade.
  • Love You Madly (Discovery #DS-947, 1988) compilation of Lomelin and Jessica.
  • Jenna (Discovery #DS-964, 1989)
  • State Street Sweet (MAMA Foundation/Summit Records #1010, 1994)
  • New York, New Sound (Mack Avenue Records #MAC-1009, 2003)
  • In My Time (Mack Avenue #MAC-1025, 2005)
  • Legacy (Mack Avenue #MAC-1056, 2011)

Here’s some background on Wilson, from the 2014 obit in the Los Angeles Times:

“Wilson, a bandleader, trumpeter, composer, arranger and educator whose multifaceted career reached from the swing era of the 1930s to the diverse jazz sounds of the 21st century, died at the age of 96. In a lifetime that spanned a substantial portion of the history of jazz, Wilson’s combination of articulate composition skills with a far-reaching creative vision carried him successfully through each of the music’s successive new evolutions.

He led his own Gerald Wilson Orchestra, recording with stellar assemblages of players, continuing to perform live, well after big jazz bands had been largely eclipsed by small jazz groups.

“I may have done more numbers and orchestrations than any other black jazz artist in the world,” he said. “I wrote a lot of music for Count Basie, eight numbers for his first Carnegie Hall concert,” he said. He also provided arrangements and compositions for such major jazz artists as Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson and others. His “Theme for Monterey,” composed as a commission by the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1997, received two Grammy nominations.

He said “I worked hard so that in later years I would no longer have to go hustling any jobs. I have written for the symphony. I have written for the movies, and I have written for television. I arrange anything. I wanted to do all these things. I’ve done that. Now I’m doing exactly what I want, musically, and I do it when I please. I’m a musician, but first and foremost, a jazz musician.”

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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4 Responses to Jazz: The Gerald Wilson Orchestra

  1. Art Scott would like this music.

  2. Richard says:

    George, I’d think you would too.

  3. Todd Mason says:

    I like his work…it’s almost a pity, in some ways, that he recorded so exclusively for World Pacific in the 1960s, given that they’ve been out of business for so long (though Mosaic was ready to step in eventually). You know Richard Bock of Pacific Jazz went onto lots of work with PBS?

  4. Art Scott says:

    I liked this music when first released. I have a couple of the original Pacific Jazz LPs, pressed on transparent yellow vinyl no less!

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