Jazz legend returns to Delta
by Courtney Stevens
Aug 27, 2013 | 2612 views | 0 0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The famous American Jazz trumpeter Gerald Wilson is coming home to Shelby for birthday cake.

As a part of the 18th Annual Mississippi Jazz & Heritage Festival, Wilson will return to Shelby next Sept. 4.

The festival will begin Thursday in Belzoni at the Pine Top Perkins Blues Museum, then Friday in Indianola at Betty's Place and followed Saturday in Greenville at the Ella Darling Elementary School

The festival will continue Monday in Greenwood at Bo's Bar-b-Que & Grill and then end Sept. 4 in Shelby at the Shelby Public Library.

Wilson's performance will begin at 6 p.m.

Wilson is an American jazz trumpeter, big band bandleader, composer, educator, and arranger.

While Wilson has been based in Los Angeles since the early 1940s, he and many other jazz performers will be performing throughout the Delta.

According to the Mississippi Jazz and Heritage Festival press release "one of the greatest jazz composers of all time, the multiple Grammy award winner will return to the Mississippi Delta to be recognized in a state that is better known for the blues than jazz."

Wilson was born in Shelby and went on to graduate from Cass Technical High School in Detroit. Wilson joined the Jimmie Lunceford orchestra in 1939, replacing its star trumpeter and arranger Sy Oliver.

While with Lunceford, he contributed numbers to the band's book, including "Hi Spook" and "Yard-dog Mazurka," the latter being a big influence on Stan Kenton's recording "Intermission Riff."

In addition to leading his band, Wilson has written arrangements for others including Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, Julie London, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Carter, Lionel Hampton, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, and Nancy Wilson to name a few.

Wilson formed his own band, with some success, in the mid-1940s. In 1960, Wilson formed a Los Angeles-based band that began a series of superb recordings for the Pacific Jazz label.

Musicians in the band at various times included lead trumpeter Snooky Young, trumpet soloist Carmell Jones and saxophonists Bud Shank, Joe Maini, Harold Land, Teddy Edwards, and Don Raffell.

The rhythm section included guitarist Joe Pass, Richard Holmes (organist), vibists Roy Ayers and Bobby Hutcherson, and drummers Mel Lewis and Mel Lee. His wife of over 50 years, Josefina Villasenor Wilson, is Mexican-American.

A number of Wilson's compositions showed his love of Spanish/Mexican themes, especially "Viva Tirado," which later became a hit for the rock band El Chicano. Along with his wife, Wilson has three daughters (Jeri Teri and Nancy Jo), his son Anthony (who is guitarist for Diana Krall), and a number of grandchildren, all of which have songs composed for them.

In February 2006, Wynton Marsalis and The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra performed his music with Wilson conducting.

In June 2007, Wilson returned to the studio with producer Al Pryor and an all-star big band to record a special album of compositions originally commissioned and premiered at the Monterey Jazz Festival for the festival's 50th anniversary.

Wilson had helped lead celebrations of the Monterey Jazz Festival's 20th and 40th anniversary with his specially commissioned works (1998's grammy nominated album Theme for Monterey).

The album, Monterey Moods was released on Mack Avenue Records in September 2007. In September 2009, Wilson conducted his eight movement suite "Detroit" commissioned by the Detroit Jazz Festival in honor of its 30th anniversary.

The work includes a movement, titled "Cass Tech," in honor of his high school alma mater.