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Gerald Wilson

By Published: May 17, 2004
Walker: Yet another and ever so fresh. Sounds like the first time you’ve ever heard it. “Viva Tirado” which is a tribute to Jose Ramone Tirado, one of the world’s greatest bullfighters. And the art of bullfighting, not the sport of bullfighting. And Gerald Wilson a member of Los Aficionados des Los Angeles, which is a very exclusive... Have you ever been in the ring?

Wilson: The bull ring?

Walker: Yeah.

Wilson: Yes, I’ve been in there numerous times. I knew all of the matadors by that time. I’d written for about eight or nine of them, had written numbers for them. So when I’d come in, they’d all treat me like I’m a part of the group, you know. It was wonderful. My wife exposed me to her culture, the Mexican culture. Because a lot of times, some of the numbers I write, you wouldn’t think that a black guy had written this. But that’s because of environment. She had exposed me to the environment and I could hear it. I heard the music. They have such great music there in Mexico also. We were just in Mexico last year and it’s a wonderful thing to be liked by other people too.

Walker: There’s a lot of people here in this area that also like you very much too.

Wilson: Well, I’m sure happy about that.

Walker: A couple of guys, the American Jazz Orchestra guys, are probably a lot of them are listening this morning. Mr. Giddins and the hard work that he did over there. And of course the late John Lewis as the musical direction. But what a concert that was.

Wilson: I want to thank Gary Giddins and John Lewis and the American Jazz Orchestra and Schoenberg. They’re such wonderful people and they brought me in. It was a real shot in the arm for me to be able to come back to New York and work with all the wonderful musicians. Jerry Dodgion was in that band. He had worked with my band in San Francisco. Jerome Richardson and Benny Powell. I can name them all. They were all just wonderful musicians that I love working with. That gave me a chance to be back in New York again with them.

Walker: With everything that you have done. It’s such a pity we only have an hour here, because Gerald and I could sit and talk for four and a half hours about various things. Such as your approach to the Afro-Cuban area of music is not so much what you do with it rhythmically, but what you do with it harmonically. And parts for the various sections, right?

Wilson: Yes, because I don’t know too much about... They have so many different kinds of rhythms and when they come in with their percussion section, they’ve got so much going on, to try and write all of that would be a mistake, I believe. But all you do is put that stuff around the harmonic tones and things like that and they’ll take care of the rhythm. So, I love the Cuban music and the Afro-Cuban approach, but as I say, trying to write out the rhythm parts — just forget it and let them take care of it because they know what to do.

Walker: Now you still write by hand. You don’t use a computer. You hate a computer as much as I do, don’t you?

Wilson: I can’t even turn it on. I have one at home that my daughter gave me a year ago. I haven’t even learned how to turn it on. But I’m going to, because as you know I’m having a little problem with my eyes right now. I just can’t see the small print and things like that. So I’m just going to have to get so that I just have my keyboard there. When I do it on the piano — boom — it’s right there. And if you want to hear it back, you can hear it back right now. I’m looking forward to working with the computer.

Walker: With everything that you have done and the cultural contributions that you have made, the educational contributions. You should have seen this guy at the IAJE in Toronto. He was working and pushing, as he does, pushing the University of Michigan Jazz Ensemble. And when they got done. And when they got done — I can’t remember the tune, but it was: Bah bah! It just ended right on a dime. And they all looked at each other like “Who the hell just did..? Why it was us!” And that happens every time you take the stand. And I’m sure it’s going to happen tonight with seasoned musicians. Who are some of the cats going to be with you tonight?

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