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|Joe Wilder: Alone With Just My Dreams (ES-101)
|The legendary trumpeter's first album as a leader in over 30 years, featuring James Williams, Remo Palmier, Jay Leonhart, and Sherman Ferguson.
Joe Wilder has accomplished just about everything one can accomplish in music -- from big bands to bebop, classical concertos to commercials. He has not enjoyed the same success is in bringing his name to the general public, however. Considering his near-legendary status among his peers, it is hard to believe that this is his first album as leader in over thirty years (he was co-leader with fellow trumpeter Joe Newman for a fine Concord LP in 1985).
Wilder was born into a musical family in Philadelphia in 1922. His father, Curtis, was (and still is) a bassist and bandleader. Initially drawn to classical music, the trumpeter studied at the Mastbaum School of Music. Realizing that, talent notwithstanding, a career in classical music was not a realistic goal for a black musician coming of age in the late 1930s, Wilder set out on a veritable big band odyssey. In great demand for his superb lead playing, as well as his solo ability, from the 1940s to the early 1950s he played in the orchestras of Les Hite, Lionel Hampton, Jimmie Lunceford, Herbie Fields, Sam Donahue, Lucky Millinder, Dizzy Gillespie, Noble Sissle, and Count Basie.
With the demise of the big bands, Wilder's musicianship enabled him to forge a new career playing for top Broadway shows. In the mid-1950s, Wilder also penetrated the highly competitive New York studio scene. Once again confronted with racial barriers, Wilder overcame prejudice and stereotypes with sheer talent and consummate professionalism. On staff at ABC from 1957 to 1974, Wilder was often called for two or more sessions a day, encompassing the most diverse musical settings.
In addition to his busy studio schedule, Wilder continued to build a reputation as a highly original jazz soloist through his own albums for Savoy and Columbia, and countless sessions as a sideman. He also became a favorite of vocalists, such as Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, and Johnny Hartman, who found their own work to be greatly enhanced by Wilder's sympathetic obligati.
During the past decade, Wilder enjoyed a long tenure in the orchestra of 42nd Street. He has appeared on the Bill Cosby Show in both playing and speaking roles, and is currently a regular on Garrison Keillor's radio series. Wilder is a favorite on the jazz party circuit and a frequent participant in the burgeoning jazz repertory movement. As senior member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, Wilder often finds himself in the singular position of re-creating performances of historic big band charts which he played when they were new.
Throughout these varied endeavors, however, Wilder never lost sight of his dream of becoming a classical trumpeter. He graduated from the Manhattan School of Music and, as some barriers began to fall, he finally realized his ambition. Wilder played on several occasions with the New York Philharmonic, and in the early 1960s recorded his own album of classical trumpet pieces, including a work written especially for him by Alec Wilder (no relation). In 1968, he became principal trumpet for the Symphony of the New World. While Wynton Marsalis has been justly celebrated for his tremendous talent and accomplishments as both a jazz and classical player, the fact that, some forty years earlier, another gifted trumpeter had similar aspirations -- and was able to realize them under adverse conditions -- is too often overlooked.
Reaching musical maturity during the transitional period between swing and bebop, Wilder easily fits into a broad range of musical settings, owing allegiance to no single school or style. His logical solo conception and pure tone are immediately identifiable. As Whitney Balliett wrote in a 1986 New Yorker profile of Wilder, "His solos are immaculately designed... He makes the song gleam."
...a nigh perfect, and perfectly charming, expression of Wilder's jazz trumpet and flugelhorn artistry. Wilder has one of the great trumpet tones in jazz, pure and full and gleaming like a pearl, with a graceful melodicism to match. The result is a finely honed, urbane style as modern and timeless as it is classic. ...full of inspired moments. Listen to this album and [Wilder's] sure to become a favorite of yours too.
-- George Kanzler, Newark Star-Ledger
...Evening Star succeeds splendidly with its debut release. A masterful technician with a logical, though hardly predictable, sense of design and a golden tone abetted by an unhurried command of swing, Wilder shines on 12 tunes spanning 71 minutes... This CD (and, for that matter, the label) is a labor of love. I highly recommend it.
-- Gene Kalbacher, CMJ New Music Report
...Wilder's first album as a leader since 1959 contains excellent uptempo and blues numbers, its three slow ballads are highlights. ...a commanding stylist who combines the strong points of both swing and bebop.
-- Will Friedwald, The New York Times
...the most gently lyrical trumpet playing I've heard since the death of Chet Baker. ...this disc is a joy to listen to.
-- Michael Ullman, CD Review
(named one of the 24 best jazz discs of 1993 in CD Review Buyer's Guide)
...A thoughtful player who has retained that luscious tone through the years, Joe Wilder finally gets a chance to shine, and he makes every note count.
-- Scott Yanow, L.A. Jazz Scene
...extraordinarily fine record... Handsomely recorded and not a second too long, even with 70 minutes of music.
-- Mike Fish, The Wire (London)
...superb craftsmanship and artistry captured in beautifully lifelike sound... You'd have to search far and wide these days to find a more musical album. Highly recommended on every count.
-- Bill Spilka, The Brass Player
Copyright © 1996-2005 Evening Star Records, Edward Berger
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