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Softly, With Feeling

Richard  J Salvucci By

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As for classical playing, Berger notes that "Wilder had done an extensive amount of classical playing in the 1950s and 1960s, most of it... for live performance or in conjunction with his work on staff at ABC." (p. 213) The exception was an album recorded in 1964 on the obscure Golden Crest label, of which I have been able to find Wilder's recording of Alec Wilder's (no relation) "Sonata for Trumpet and Piano." Wilder, of course discounted his abilities as a classical player in comparison to Wynton Marsalis or to the extraordinary Russian, Timofei Dokshizer. I beg to differ. Alec Wilder wrote the piece specially for Joe. For sheer beauty, not to mention execution, it is a revelation, as Wilder plays both open and muted horn. The results are simply gorgeous, and not just proficient. Ask a player, especially about navigating the treacherous lower register of the trumpet as cleanly as Wilder did here..

There is all this and a lot more, including a memorable account of Wilder with Benny Goodman's disastrous 1958 tour of the USSR, Wilder's club dates, society orchestra playing, and much more.

This is an important account of a trumpet player whose career was in some ways a metaphor for race in a part of the music business that conspicuously was not associated with Afro-Americans. Listen to Wilder's recordings as you read it. It will be time well spent and effort amply rewarded.

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