Wire Drawing Lives … hmmm. Not what I was expecting the Viva Tirado to mean. Of course, I am not surprised. The song that led me to my discovery of the Gerald Wilson Orchestra was his arrangement of Milestones from New York, New Sound. The version I’ve linked to here comes after the musical intro and narration by the host of “Frankly Jazz” produced in the 1960s.
So – back to the title cut – I’ll translate it to mean “Long Live Wire Drawings” … which leads me to think of line drawings or sketches. And indeed, in that piece I think that’s what we’re getting – the outline of a story told with a Latin Rhythm and with a guitar. “Wire Drawings” … a sketch of guitar virtuosity? I don’t think so, especially since Gerald is a trumpet man. In fact – this song for me is so evocative of Perry Mason – and a hard boiled detective sitting at a desk outlined in a pool of light from the solitary desk lamp, smoke curling into the darkness. What do you see when you listen to this piece?
I like his version of Milestones because he’s arranged it a little faster than Mile’s own version. Can you hear the difference? I also think Mile’s version is a little more staccato and crisp than the Gerald Wilson arrangement.
Here are the other things I like about him. First – he’s part of that West Coast Jazz movement and recorded frequently for the Pacific Jazz Label. Up and down the coast of California there was a very vibrant jazz scene in the 50s and 60s. I’m sure a lot of it grew out of the studio musicians in Los Angeles who worked in the film business. But they also congregated in San Francisco and of course most people are familiar with the Monterey Jazz Festival which has been going strong since 1958.
So – he’s got that California connection, but he also has a cotton connection. He was born in Shelby, Mississippi. A small town just south of Clarksdale. Shelby is also in the middle of my territory not far away from other small dots on the map including Schlater, Itta Bena, and Minter City.
Although he’s been away from the south for a long time, I think this picture of him screams “southern gentleman”.
Each time I glance at this photo I think of …. Mark Twain.
Can you see the resemblance? I’m sure like Mr. Twain he has some amazing stories – being a black man born in 1918 – and leading a big band in the 1940s, long before desegregation came to our country. I love the fact that he started out arranging for Benny Carter (a personal favorite of mine), Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. Not a bad resume, eh?
Not only is he a stunning arranger and musician, but like Kenny Burrell of yesterday, he too is a Jazz Educator at UCLA … recently winning “teacher of the year” in his eight decade. (80 years old – and teaching. I find that inspiring!)
In other news:
Last night at graphics rehearsal I volunteered to put together a training session for the other members of the team. Part of me is saying “What ARE you thinking of?” and the other part of me is saying, “Oh! What fun … and I’ll do a much better job than anyone else.” I’ll be working with one of the band members next week to put together the outline and resources. WHee!!
I’m also helping a friend arrange a stockholders dinner for 35 people. Notice I say “help arrange” and not cook it! I should get points for that … shouldn’t I? Knowing my limits and not over committing?
Okay – I’ve rambled on far too long this morning, time to get down to business.