Bob Wilber

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Bob Wilber
Bob Wilber.jpg
Bob Wilber at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the late 1970s
Background information
Birth nameRobert Sage Wilber
Born(1928-03-15)March 15, 1928
New York City, U.S.
DiedAugust 4, 2019(2019-08-04) (aged 91)
Chipping Campden, England
Genres Jazz, dixieland
Occupation(s)Musician
InstrumentsSaxophone, clarinet
Years active1940s–2010s
Labels Arbors
Associated acts Kenny Davern, Dick Hyman, Soprano Summit, World's Greatest Jazz Band, Sidney Bechet

Robert Sage Wilber (March 15, 1928 – August 4, 2019) was an American jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, and band leader. Although his scope covers a wide range of jazz, Wilber was a dedicated advocate of classic styles, working throughout his career to present traditional jazz pieces in a contemporary manner. He played with many distinguished jazz leaders in the 1950s and 1960s, including Bobby Hackett, Benny Goodman, Sidney Bechet, Jack Teagarden and Eddie Condon. In the late 1960s, he was an original member of the World's Greatest Jazz Band, and in the early 70s of Soprano Summit, a band which gained wide attention. In the late 1970s, he formed the Bechet Legacy Band.

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States. It originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".

Bobby Hackett American jazz musician

Robert Leo Hackett was an American jazz musician who played trumpet, cornet, and guitar with the bands of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Hackett was a featured soloist on some of the Jackie Gleason mood music albums during the 1950s.

Benny Goodman American jazz musician

Benjamin David Goodman was an American jazz clarinetist and bandleader known as the "King of Swing".

Contents

Wilber was active in jazz education, including working as director of the Smithsonian Jazz Repertory Ensemble. He wrote for films, including The Cotton Club . In his autobiography, Music Was Not Enough, he recounts his childhood, meeting his mentor Sidney Bechet, in 1946, and his struggles as a musician in the 1950s and 1960s. He died at the age of 91 in 2019. [1] [2]

<i>The Cotton Club</i> (film) 1984 film by Francis Ford Coppola

The Cotton Club is a 1984 American crime-drama film centered on a Harlem jazz club of the 1930s, the Cotton Club. The film was co-written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, choreographed by Henry LeTang, and starred Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, and Lonette McKee. The supporting cast included Bob Hoskins, James Remar, Nicolas Cage, Allen Garfield, Laurence Fishburne, Gwen Verdon and Fred Gwynne.

Early life

Wilber, a "superb soprano saxophonist, a classic clarinetist, a gifted arranger and composer, and an invaluable preserver and enhancer of jazz tradition", was born in New York City on March 15, 1928. [3] He became interested in jazz at the age of three when his father brought home a recording of Duke Ellington's song "Mood Indigo". In 1935, the family moved to Scarsdale, New York, and at the age of thirteen Wilber began formal clarinet study under his first teacher, Willard Briggs. [3] :46 He began listening to jazz from New Orleans, Kansas City, and Chicago by Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Eddie Condon, and Frank Teschemacher. He played jazz in high school and with his friends formed a "hot club", listening and jamming to records. Wilber graduated from high school in 1945. Although his parents wanted him to attend an Ivy League college, he was set on becoming a musician. He attempted to compromise with his parents by attending the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, in the fall of 1945. [3] :47 But after one term at Eastman, he dropped out and moved back to New York City to "hang out on Fifty-second Street and in the Village". [3] :47

Mood Indigo song

"Mood Indigo" is a jazz song with music by Duke Ellington and Barney Bigard and lyrics by Irving Mills.

Duke Ellington American jazz musician, composer and band leader

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and leader of a jazz orchestra, which he led from 1923 until his death over a career spanning more than fifty years.

Louis Armstrong American jazz trumpeter, composer and singer

Louis Daniel Armstrong, nicknamed Satchmo, Satch, and Pops, was an American trumpeter, composer, vocalist and occasional actor who was one of the most influential figures in jazz. His career spanned five decades, from the 1920s to the 1960s, and different eras in the history of jazz. In 2017, he was inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.

The Wildcats

In 1945, Wilber formed the Wildcats, which included pianist Dick Wellstood and trombonist Ed Hubble. The Wildcats were the first jazz group in New York to "do what Lu Watters and Turk Murphy had been doing on the Coast – playing the music of the Hot Five and the Red Hot Peppers and the Creole Jazz Band." [3] :47 The group performed regularly at Jimmy Ryan's club over the next two years and was recorded in 1947 by Ramp-art Records. [4] Wilber worked with some of the best traditional jazz musicians of the era, including Muggsy Spanier, Baby Dodds, Danny Barker, Bud Freeman, Pee Wee Russell, George Wettling, Jimmy McPartland, Wild Bill Davison, and James P. Johnson. [5]

Richard MacQueen "Dick" Wellstood was an American jazz pianist.

Lucius Carl Watters was a trumpeter and bandleader of the Yerba Buena Jazz Band.

Turk Murphy American musician

Melvin Edward Alton "Turk" Murphy was a trombonist and bandleader who played traditional and Dixieland jazz.

Meeting Bechet

Bob Wilber and Sidney Bechet, Jimmy Ryan's (Club), New York, c. January 1947; image: William P. Gottlieb Bob Wilber, Sidney Bechet (Gottlieb 09161).jpg
Bob Wilber and Sidney Bechet, Jimmy Ryan's (Club), New York, c. January 1947; image: William P. Gottlieb

Sidney Bechet was one of the most accomplished and influential musicians of the post World War I period and was viewed by many as the best clarinetist of his time. Nevertheless, Bechet's primary instrument eventually became the soprano saxophone. In 1944, Wilber had become fascinated with Bechet's sound, and later that year, when Wilber was sixteen, he was introduced to Bechet through Mezz Mezzrow. He found out there was an opening for a pupil out at Bechet's house in Brooklyn, and so he became a Bechet pupil. [6] In the spring of 1945, he began studying both clarinet and soprano saxophone under Bechet and eventually lived with him for several months. He often sat in with Bechet at Jimmy Ryan's and they often performed duets. In 1948, Bechet sent Wilber to Nice, France, in his absence to perform at the first jazz festival. [3] :48–49 At the festival, Wilber's group shared the bill with Louis Armstrong and his Allstars. Wilber recorded for Columbia Records, Commodore, and Circle with Bechet and with his own group in the late 1940s. [7]

Sidney Bechet American jazz musician

Sidney Bechet was an American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer. He was one of the first important soloists in jazz, beating trumpeter Louis Armstrong to the recording studio by several months. His erratic temperament hampered his career, and not until the late 1940s did he earn wide acclaim.

Soprano saxophone the third smallest member of the saxophone family

The soprano saxophone is a higher-register variety of the saxophone, a woodwind instrument, invented in the 1840s. The soprano is the third smallest member of the saxophone family, which consists of the soprillo, sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass, contrabass saxophone and tubax. Soprano saxophones are the smallest saxophone in common use.

Mezz Mezzrow American jazz clarinetist and saxophonist

Milton Mesirow, better known as Mezz Mezzrow, was an American jazz clarinetist and saxophonist from Chicago, Illinois. He is well known for organizing and financing historic recording sessions with Tommy Ladnier and Sidney Bechet. He also recorded a number of times with Bechet and briefly acted as manager for Louis Armstrong. Mezzrow is equally well remembered as a colorful character, as portrayed in his autobiography, Really the Blues, co-written with Bernard Wolfe and published in 1946.

Boston era

In 1948, Wilber formed a trio to play at intermissions at the Savoy Café in Boston. The trio featured traditional New Orleans-style jazz (dixieland). Eventually, Wilber expanded the band to a sextet and was booked as the main attraction: Bob Wilber and the Dixieland Band. This group featured Wilber on clarinet and soprano sax, Henry Goodwin on trumpet, Jimmy Archey on trombone, Dick Wellstood on piano, Johnny Fields on bass, and Tommy Benford on drums. [8] Wilber gained a strong following in Boston and the Savoy gig lasted through the better part of 1949. The Savoy also led to other opportunities to play in the New York City area through 1950, most notably at Jimmy Ryan's and the Stuyvesant Hotel.

Dixieland, sometimes referred to as hot jazz or traditional jazz, is a style of jazz based on the music that developed in New Orleans at the start of the 20th century.

Jimmy Archey was an American jazz trombonist born in Norfolk, Virginia, perhaps most noteworthy for his work in several prominent jazz orchestras and big bands of his time. He performed and recorded with the James P. Johnson orchestra, King Oliver, Fats Waller and the Luis Russell orchestra, among others.

Thomas Benford was an American jazz drummer.

Discography

Bob Wilber at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2014 Bob Wilbur at New Orleans Jazz Fest 2014.jpg
Bob Wilber at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2014

As leader

With Soprano Summit

As sideman

With Sidney Bechet

With Ruby Braff

With Benny Goodman

With Bobby Hackett

With Dick Hyman

With Ralph Sutton

With The World's Greatest Jazzband of Yank Lawson & Bob Haggart

With others

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References

  1. Bebco, Joe (2019-08-06). "Jazz Revival Clarinetist Bob Wilber has Died". The Syncopated Times. Retrieved 2019-08-06.
  2. Russonello, Giovanni (August 9, 2019). "Bob Wilber, Champion of Jazz's Legacy, Is Dead at 91". Nytimes.com.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Balliett, Whitney. "Profiles: The Westchester Kids (Bob Wilber)", The New Yorker 53, no. 12 (1977).
  4. Johnson, Ron D. "Tracking the Wildcat", The Mississippi Rag, June 1974, 2.
  5. Box 2, Folder 3. Bob Wilber Papers, 1943–2006. Milne Special Collections & Archives, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH. May 11, 2015.
  6. Wilber, Bob. "Studying with Bechet", Jazz Music 3, no.10 (1948): 24.
  7. R.C. "Bob Wilber Could Take Up Where Bechet Left Off", The Jazz Beat, August 1959.
  8. Box 2, Folder 6. Bob Wilber Papers, 1943–2006. Milne Special Collections & Archives, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH. May 11, 2015.

Sources