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Farewell: Gerald Wilson


Gerald Wilson
Gerald Wilson

Gerald Wilson is an iconic and influential figure for me. He helped to guide the direction my music has taken, and there’s no hiding it: If you’ve seen me conduct, you know that a lot of my style and concept comes from Gerald Wilson.

What most people don’t know is that Duke Ellington held Gerald in such high regard he became a ghostwriter for Duke. If maestro Ellington had a project with a tight deadline, he would have Gerald write for him. In some cases, Gerald would only get paid his fee and not receive an arranging credit on the album. Still, Gerald was ready for the next opportunity. One of my desert island albums is Ella at Duke’s Place, from 1965. I know every note on that record and have always been especially drawn to Duke’s arrangement of “Imagine My Frustration.” Wrong! It is a Gerald Wilson arrangement, and I had to embarrass myself to find out the truth.

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