Jazz Legend Gerald Wilson Dies at 96

Gerald Wilson

Jazz Legend Gerald Wilson Dies at 96

The dynamic musician passed away from pneumonia in his Los Angeles home.

Published September 9, 2014

The music community mourns the loss of jazz musician Gerald Wilson, whose career spanned more than seven decades. He died of pneumonia Monday (Sept. 8) in his Los Angeles home, reports Billboard. He was 96.

A Shelby, Miss., native, Wilson grew up to become quite the experienced jazz staple. He played and composed for the likes of Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington, and even arranged music for jazz and blues icons Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Sarah Vaughn and Bobby Darin.

In the 1930s, Wilson served as a trumpeter for Jimmy Lunceford, arranging the famous jazz numbers "Hi Spook" and "Yard Dog Mazurka." Following his stint with Lunceford and serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Wilson settled in Los Angeles in the 1940s and has remained there ever since.

In his later years, Wilson became known for his white hair and dramatic dance-like conducting style.

"I choreograph the music when I conduct," he told the Jazz Times in 2011. "Accent everything — all the high points."

Throughout his career, Wilson has earned six Grammy nominations, including recognition in 1999 and 2004 for best large jazz ensemble for "Theme for Monterey" and "New York, New Sound."

Closer to his passing, the legend took his knowledge to the classroom, teaching jazz at California State University, Northridge; California State University, Los Angeles; and University of California, Los Angeles.

Wilson leaves behind his wife, Josefina Villasenor Wilson, a son, two daughters and four grandchildren.

Our condolences to Wilson's fans, friends and family.

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(Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for NAACP)

Written by Moriba Cummings


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