Born: February 22, 1922 Primary Instrument: Trumpet
Joe Wilder turned eighty on February 22, 2002, an occasion marked by celebrations at the Arbors Records March of Jazz party in Clearwater, Florida, at the Jazz in July series at New York's 92nd Street Y, and at two tribute concerts: at the Smithsonian in March and at Lincoln Center in August. Best of all, Wilder himself performed at all these events in the same inimitable style that has been captivating audiences and fellow musicians since the late 1930s. For his third Evening Star release, we decided to continue the celebration in the studio by gathering some of Joe's favorite musicians to play with him in various combinations. The repertoire consists of pieces Joe likes to play but has never had the chance to record, including some of the finest examples of the American popular songbook.
Of the guest artists, Frank Wess and Joe have been friends since the early 1940s. Joe, who was with the Philadelphia-based Harlem Dictators at the time, recalls meeting Frank in Annapolis where the saxophonist was working with Jimmy Golden's band. Later, they were colleagues in Count Basie's orchestra. Joe has known Bucky Pizzarelli since the 1950s when both became stalwarts in the New York studios. Warren Vaché and Joe have a mutual admiration society going back two decades. They have conducted clinics and have played together at many jazz parties through the years. Joe is my idol, Warren says. When I grow up, I want to be just like Joe Wilder!
Bill Charlap and Russell Malone are more recent but no less compatible associates who obviously share Joe's musical philosophy, especially where melody is concerned. The quintet and sextet tracks include pianist Chris Neville and bassist Steve LaSpina, distinctive soloists and sensitive accompanists who comprise two-thirds of Benny Carter's most recent regular rhythm section. They are joined by drummer Chuck Redd, a Wilder favorite and fellow member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.
The personnel on the final track evolved in a most unusual way. While Joe and Bucky Pizzarelli were running through Joe's line on Lady Be Good, bassist Jerry Bruno and drummer Joe Cocuzzo walked into the studio for a later session with a singer. They couldn't resist joining in. Bucky then spied his friend Skitch Henderson, who had dropped by to visit. You be Basie! the guitarist called out, directing Skitch to the piano, and suddenly the duo had become a quintet and a truly impromptu jam had been captured in the studio.
One note on Centerpiece: Harry Sweets Edison used this blues as a set-closer that culminated in a hilarious monologue enumerating his own not inconsiderable virtues. Sweets was close to everyone on this session, and this track is dedicated to his memory.