Joe Wilder

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Joe Wilder
John Webber, Joe Wilder and Lewis Nash.jpg
Left to right: John Webber, Joe Wilder and Lewis Nash
Background information
Born(1922-02-22)February 22, 1922
Colwyn, Pennsylvania, USA
DiedMay 9, 2014(2014-05-09) (aged 92)
New York City, New York
Genres Jazz, Swing music
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
InstrumentsTrumpet, flugelhorn
Years active1940s 2014
Labels Savoy, Columbia, Evening Star
Associated acts Lionel Hampton
Dizzy Gillespie
Benny Goodman
Benny Carter
Billie Holiday
Lena Horne
Johnny Mathis
Harry Belafonte
Tony Bennett

Joseph Benjamin Wilder (February 22, 1922 – May 9, 2014) was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer.


Wilder was awarded the Temple University Jazz Master's Hall of Fame Award in 2006. [1] The National Endowment for the Arts honored him with its highest honor in jazz, the NEA Jazz Masters Award for 2008. [2]


Wilder was born into a musical family led by his father Curtis, a bassist and bandleader in Philadelphia. Wilder's first performances took place on the radio program "Parisian Tailor's Colored Kiddies of the Air". He and the other young musicians were backed up by such illustrious bands as Duke Ellington's and Louis Armstrong's that were also then playing at the Lincoln Theater. Wilder studied at the Mastbaum School of Music in Philadelphia, but turned to jazz when he felt that there was little future for an African-American classical musician. At the age of 19, Wilder joined his first touring big band, Les Hite's band. [3]

Wilder was one of the first thousand African Americans to serve in the Marines during World War II. He worked first in Special Weapons and eventually became Assistant Bandmaster at the headquarters' band. Following the war during the 1940s and early 1950s, he played in the orchestras of Jimmie Lunceford, Herbie Fields, Sam Donahue, Lucky Millinder, Noble Sissle, Dizzy Gillespie, and finally with the Count Basie Orchestra. From 1957 to 1974, Wilder did studio work for ABC-TV, New York City, and in the pit orchestras for Broadway musicals, while building his reputation as a soloist with his albums for Savoy (1956) and Columbia (1959). His Jazz from Peter Gunn (1959), features ten songs from Henry Mancini ("Peter Gunn") television score in melodic and swinging fashion with a quartet. He was also a regular sideman with such musicians as NEA Jazz Masters Hank Jones, Gil Evans, and Benny Goodman. He became a favorite with vocalists and played for Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Johnny Mathis, Harry Belafonte, Eileen Farrell, Tony Bennett, and many others. [4] Wilder earned a bachelor of music degree in 1953, studying classical trumpet at the Manhattan School of Music with Joseph Alessi, where he was also principal trumpet with the school's symphony orchestra under conductor Jonel Perlea. In the 1960s, he performed on several occasions with the New York Philharmonic under Andre Kostelanetz and Pierre Boulez and played lead for the Symphony Of The New World from 1965 to 1971.

He appeared on The Cosby Show episode "Play It Again, Russell" (1986), [5] and played the trumpet in the Malcolm X Orchestra in Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" (1992). [6] Since 1991 he returned as a leader and recorded three albums for Evening Star. He died on May 9, 2014, in New York City, of congestive heart failure. [7]


As leader

Year recordedTitleLabelNotes
1956 Wilder 'n' Wilder SavoyQuartet, with Hank Jones (piano), Wendell Marshall (bass), Kenny Clarke (drums)
1959 The Pretty Sound Columbia
1959 Jazz from Peter Gunn Columbia
1984 Hangin' Out ConcordWith Joe Newman (trumpet), Hank Jones (piano), Rufus Reid (bass), Marvin "Smitty" Smith (drums)
1991Alone with Just My DreamsEvening StarWith James Williams (piano), Remo Palmier (guitar), Jay Leonhart (bass), Sherman Ferguson (drums)
1993No Greater LoveEvening Star
2003Among FriendsEvening Star

As sideman

With Trigger Alpert

With Count Basie

With Louis Bellson and Gene Krupa

With Ruth Brown

With Benny Carter

With Al Cohn

With Tadd Dameron

With Gil Evans

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Jimmy Giuffre

With Urbie Green

With Johnny Hartman

With Coleman Hawkins

With Johnny Hodges

With J. J. Johnson

With Etta Jones

With Hank Jones

With Quincy Jones

With Yusef Lateef

With John Lewis

With Mundell Lowe

With Herbie Mann

With Les McCann

With Oliver Nelson

With David Newman

With Houston Person

With Oscar Pettiford

With A. K. Salim

With Shirley Scott

With Rex Stewart and Cootie Williams

With Sonny Stitt

With Ernie Wilkins

With Anita O'Day

With Donna Hightower

With others

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  1. "Temple University Jazz Master's Hall of Fame Award". Archived from the original on 2011-06-29. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
  2. "2008 NEA Jazz Masters Awards". Archived from the original on 2010-07-31. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
  3. Larkin, Colin. The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Guinness, p. 4477 (1995). ISBN   1-56159-176-9
  4. Joe Wilder: A True Living Legend
  5. "The Cosby Show": Play It Again, Russell (1986)
  6. Malcolm X (1992)
  7. "Joe Wilder, trumpeter and NEA jazz master, dies at 92", The Washington Post