Benny Goodman biographer, Ross Firestone, classes this issue as "an event." For Goodman collectors, it certainly qualifies as such. We are offered a first chance to hear 17 Fletcher Henderson arrangements written for "The King of Swing" but which were never recorded. Fletcher Henderson was possibly Benny Goodman’s most important arranger, especially in the early years of the band. Bob Wilber (1928 - ) has long been regarded as a musician of the utmost integrity and good taste. He studied under Sidney Bechet during the mid 1940s and devoted his life to providing jazz fans with his own brand of perfection, be it on clarinet or soprano sax.
I had a brief meeting with Wilber in the early 70s when he appeared at The World’s Greatest Jazz Band’s concert in Montreal. My conversation with Bob was to be very short as Montreal’s jazz media people quickly descended and occupied him for the rest of the evening. Although disappointed, I spent my evening with Yank Lawson, Bennie Morton, Billy Butterfield, Ralph Sutton and Bud Freeman. "Bob Wilber’s Wildcats" recordings are among the most prized collector’s items of that wonderful era of traditional jazz revival.
This fine CD finds Bob as guest conductor and clarinet soloist with The Tuxedo Big Band of Toulouse, France and it’s a great band indeed. Collectors will want to know about the tunes included and I’ll mention a few but you can find a complete list at the Arbors web site. Here we go: Rose of the Rio Grande, Blue and Broken Hearted, Out of Nowhere, Sugar, Poor Butterfly, Sunday and Sweet Lorraine. That should be enough to whet your appetite. Most of these arrangements were penned by Henderson in the mid 40s, a scant 4 or 5 years prior to his death in 1952. The arrangements are living proof that advanced age has no adverse effects on a great writer.
This CD is a real prize for fans of Goodman, Wilber and Henderson. The Tuxedo Big Band is great outfit and they really romp on this session. In spite of occasional rumors of retirement, Bob Wilber continues to perform about 30 concerts yearly. Don’t stop Bob!