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Exploring America's Classical Music w/ GERALD WILSON Preeminent Jazz Orchestra Composer Band Leader

  • Broadcast in Music
George V Johnson Jr

George V Johnson Jr


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Born in Shelby, Mississippi in 1918, Gerald Wilson knew early on that he was going to be a musician. While living in Detroit, he studied harmony and orchestration at Cass Tech in addition to working on his trumpet chops. In 1939, when he got the call to join Jimmie Lunceford's orchestra, he was ready. “When I got a chance to join them,” remembers Wilson, “I was thrilled to death. The Jimmie Lunceford band was at the top of the heap at the time and they could outdraw everyone. They had such creative arrangements by Edwin Wilcox, Sy Oliver and Eddie Durham, and their musicians were very good. I made my first arrangements for them, “Yard Dog Mazurka” and “Hi Spook. Back in 1939, Gerald Wilson joined the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra as a trumpet soloist and an arranger. 66 years later, Wilson is still very active, having long been considered one of the top arrangers, composers and big band leaders in the history of jazz. 86 as of this writing, he has lost none of his enthusiasm, skills or creativity, and still manages to sound quite modern. Throughout his career, Gerald Wilson has received incredible acclaim, including winning the Downbeat International Critics Poll both as a composer/arranger and for his big band, and winning the Paul Robeson Award, the NEA American Jazz Masters Fellowship, and a pair of American Jazz Awards. He has been elected to the Mississippi Jazz Hall of Fame, has had his life's work archived by the Library of Congress and has earned six Grammy® nominations. But his real legacy is his music itself.