LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) — Gerald Wilson, jazz trumpeter, big band leader, composer and educator died on September 8th due to complications of pneumonia. He was 96.
A native of Mississippi, Wilson got his start in the world of music when he joined the Jimmie Lunceford orchestra in 1939. In the mid-1940s, Wilson formed his own band, the Gerald Wilson Orchestra and continued to perform big band jazz long after the rise of rock.
Wilson was a colorful bandleader, immediately recognizable for his tailored suits and long white hair; and who was renowned for his graceful directing style.
"There's no way you can sit in Gerald's band and sit on the back of your chair," bandleader/arranger John Clayton told the Detroit Free Press. "He handles the orchestra in a very wise and experienced craftsman sort of way. The combination of the heart and the craft is in perfect balance."
Wilson was also known for his compositions, penning hits such as "Yard Dog Mazurka" and "Viva Tirado," and he well regarded arranger as well, working for artists such as Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles and Sarah Vaughan.
Wilson was a member of the faculty at California State University, Los Angeles and the University of California, Los Angeles, and he also served on the faculty at California State University, Northridge in the 1970s, teaching jazz history.
Besides his wife Josefina Villasenor Wilson and his son Anthony, Wilson is survived by daughters Jeri and Nancy Jo, and four grandchildren. – Staff Writers