Although the theaters and concert halls at the University of Cincinnati’s nationally ranked and internationally renowned College-Conservatory of Music are temporarily silent, audiences can still experience world-class performances through CCM’s new CCMONSTAGE Online video series. This week’s release features a classic jazz performance from CCM’s video archives.
On May 22, 2011, the CCM Jazz Ensemble was joined by Grammy Award-nominee, National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master and Kennedy Center “Living Legend of Jazz” Gerald Wilson (1918-2014) for an unforgettable evening of big band music. The concert also featured the talents of Mary Ellen Tanner (1946-2014), a renowned jazz vocalist who taught at CCM for many years.
An acclaimed composer, arranger and band leader of modern jazz who was in his 92nd year at the time of this recording, Wilson’s talent was legendary among jazz insiders. His classic compositions include “Blues for Count Basie” written for Basie while Wilson was in his band and “Blues for Yna Yna,” which was the second jazz waltz ever written.
“Gerald Wilson is a living legend and a part of the golden age of the big band as a writer, arranger and trumpet player,” CCM Professor and Jazz department head Scott Belck commented in 2011, adding that Wilson was also “one of the most interesting cats you will ever meet.” Wilson passed away in Los Angeles in September 2014.
Wilson’s groundbreaking compositions, intricate arrangements and immediately recognizable sound put him in a league of his own. In his prolific seven-decade career as composer and arranger, Wilson was behind some of the greatest names in jazz, including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Carter, Nancy Wilson and Bobby Darin. Beyond his jazz accomplishments, Wilson’s symphonic compositions were performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the direction of Zubin Mehta. He even scored a top 40 pop hit with El Chicano’s 1970 version of his “Viva Tirado,” a song that has been recorded in at least 18 different versions, including a hip-hop rendition by Latino rapper Kid Frost.
This concert was originally streamed online with support provided by the Corbett Endowment for CCM and the Franklin L. Folger Trust. The performance was later broadcast on CET Cincinnati Public Television.