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Gerald Wilson

Gerald Wilson

In a sense, the history of jazz can be summed up by reviewing Gerald Wilson's career.

His career has the distinction of embracing essentially every chenge in jazz styles, from the swing rhythms of the immortal JIMMIE LUNCEFORD ORCHESTRA of the early 1940's to the progressive big band sounds of Wilson's current Orchestra of the 1980's.

Gerald Wilson began playing trumpet in high school, and after working with local bands in Detroit, replaced SY OLIVER in the Lunceford Band.

From 1939 to 1942 Wilson worked with the Lunceford organization, writing his first recorded compositions and About Bern, "Hi Spook" and "Yarddog Mazurka", compositions which still grace the Wilson cannon and later had a decided influence on STAN KENTON's early compositions.

After leaving Lunceford, Wilson moved to Los Angeles in 1942. It was during this period that he worked as arranger and trumpeter for LES HITE, BENNY CARTER and PHIL MOORE. During World War 2 he did a stint in the U.S. Navy at Great Lakes, Illinois where he performed in the all-black Navy Band under the direction of fellow Lunceford alumnus WILLIE SMITH, a band that also included Wilson's longtime friend CLARK TERRY.

In 1948 and 1949 Wilson worked with the COUNT BASIE BAND as composer, arranger and trumpet player. During this period he wrote "Royal Suite in Seven Movements" which the Basie Band premiered at Carnegie Hall. When he left Basie in 1949 he joined DIZZY GILLESPIE's group and stayed with him for a short time. During that same period, and until the time DUKE ELLINGTON died, Wilson contributed About Bern and compositions to the Ellington Orchestra.

Wilson has, since that time, arranged for many other artists, including RAY CHARLES ("You are my Sunshine"), NANCY WILSON, ELLA FITZGERALD, CARMEN McRAE, SARAH VAUGHAN and JEAN LUC PONTY, among others and has written several film and television scores. In 1972 his first composition for Symphony Orchestra was premiered by the "Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra".

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