Six-time Grammy Nominated Composer/Arranger, Gerald Wilson conducts two shows with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble (CJE). The shows, Saturday, May 7 at 8:00 P.M. and Sunday, May 8 at 2:00 P.M., at the Field Museum’s James R. Simpson Theatre are the final performances of the CJE’s Sixth American Heritage Jazz Series.
For more than fifty years, Gerald Wilson has been recognized as one of the premiere composers, arrangers and band leaders in modern jazz. Although not a household name, Gerald Wilson’s talent is legendary among jazz insiders. During his six-decade career, Wilson’s compositions have been behind the greatest names in jazz, including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Carter, and Nancy Wilson.
Wilson spent a number of years in Chicago early in his career and was stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Academy during World War II. “I was stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Academy in 1943 and 1944 and it was a great time in history. Aside from myself there was Clark Terry and Willie Smith and we were all proud of the fact that we were really the first blacks in the U.S. Navy. I had been in Chicago prior to that and have always considered it one of my many homes, so it was really like I was coming home. Chicago still means a lot to me. I even composed a dedicated a piece State Street Suite that I performed in Chicago many years ago and am really looking forward to coming back.”
After four years with the Jimmie Lunceford Band and his stint in the U.S. Navy, Wilson settled in Los Angeles, where he played trumpet and wrote for Benny Carter and Les Hite. In 1944, he brought together what would be the first Gerald Wilson Jazz Orchestra. The Orchestra made its mark in New York and received rave reviews playing the Apollo Theatre, and around the country. Then in 1947, just as the Orchestra was reaching its height of success, Wilson dissolved the band . “They were booking me everywhere and I had contracts all over the place, and I realized that, ‘Hey, this wasn’t what I wanted; there’s still so much I’ve got to learn.’ The only way I could was to actually stop and really study. My booking agent was ready to kill me.”
Through the ‘50s, Wilson was one of the most active arrangers and orchestrators in jazz and popular music. During this time he provided musical setting for many popular entertainers and developed a close working relationship with Duke Ellington that lasted through his death in 1974.
One of the most generous of artists, Wilson continually seeks ways to share his knowledge and passion. He has hosted a daily jazz program on L.A.’s KBCA Radio, taught jazz history for 13 years at California State Univeristy Northridge, six years at California State University Los Angeles and most recently taught at UCLA. “It helps keep me alive because jazz is such a chain of evolution. I just try to be a person worthy of being a part of this great art form.”
The Chicago Jazz EnsembleTM was founded in 1965 by the late jazz composer William Russo as a professional jazz orchestra in residence at Columbia College Chicago. The 20-piece orchestra is comprised of Chicago’s jazz elite and its repertoire is derived from the early works of Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, as well as other jazz legends that have forged the American Jazz Heritage.
This is the CJE’s first series with Artistic Director trumpet virtuoso, Jon Faddis. Faddis draws on over thirty years experience in performing with and conducting superb Jazz big bands such as Lionel Hampton’s Big Band and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra (now the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra). Faddis served as music director for Dizzy Gillespie’s GrammyTM-award winning United Nation’s Orchestra, for Dizzy Gillespie’s 70th Birthday Big Band, and, after his mentor’s passing, Faddis led the Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars Big Band. Renowned for his leadership of the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Faddis conducted over 40 concerts in ten years at Carnegie Hall, featuring over 135 musicians and 70 guest artists. With an extraordinary mission, “The Roots of Chicago Jazz” honors CJE’s 40 year history and forges an adventure in its mission of music education creating tomorrow’s legacy™.
May 7, 2005, Saturday, 8:00 PM The Field Museum, James R. Simpson Theatre, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive. Program: CJE shares the stage with Guest Conductor: Six-time Grammy Award Nominee, Composer/Arranger Gerald Wilson. Tickets are $30, $25. Student and group rates available.
May 8, 2005, Sunday, 2:00 PM The Field Museum, James R. Simpson Theatre, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive. Program: CJE shares the stage with Guest Conductor: Six-time Grammy Award Nominee, Composer/Arranger Gerald Wilson. Tickets are $30, $25. Student and group rates available.
Tickets at www.Ticketweb.com or 312-344-6269. More information at www.chijazz.com
Programs and guest artists are subject to change.
This story appears courtesy of All About Jazz Publicity.
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