The trumpeter Joe Wilder has died at the age of ninety-two. The New York Times has an obituary.
My fambly was fortunate to hear Joe Wilder playing an all-Ellington program with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra many years ago. His solos were the brightest moments of the night. Kids, you got to hear a master at work.
The January 6, 1986 issue of The New Yorker has a Whitney Balliett piece on Joe Wilder (titled “Joe Wilder”). It’s mostly Wilder talking. Here he describes his idea of improvisation:
“The melodic material determines to a great degree what I do. If it is simple material, I try and make it more ornate. If it is ornate, I try and simplify it. You try not to trample on a nice melody. You alter it here and there.”You can listen to Joe Wilder’s alterations via these YouTube samples.
“Cherokee” : “Have You Met Miss Jones?” : “In a Mist” : “Prelude to a Kiss” : “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue”
[Can a trumpet sound like Johnny Hodges playing “Prelude to a Kiss”? Yes, if that trumpet is being played by Joe Wilder.]