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Biography

  • Members

    • Bob Wilber
    • Charlie Traeger
    • Danny Strong
    • Dick Wellstood
    • John Glasel

Bob Wilber (15 March 1928 – 4 August 2019) was an American jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, and band leader.

In 1945, Wilber formed the Wildcats, which included pianist Dick Wellstood and trombonist Ed Hubble. The Wildcats were the first jazz group in New York to "do what Lu Watters and Turk Murphy had been doing on the Coast – playing the music of the Hot Five and the Red Hot Peppers and the Creole Jazz Band." The group performed regularly at Jimmy Ryan's club over the next two years and was recorded in 1947 by Ramp-art Records. Wilber worked with some of the best traditional jazz musicians of the era, including Muggsy Spanier, Baby Dodds, Danny Barker, Bud Freeman, Pee Wee Russell, George Wettling, Jimmy McPartland, Wild Bill Davison, and James P. Johnson.

Although his scope covers a wide range of jazz, Wilber was a dedicated advocate of classic styles, working throughout his career to present traditional jazz pieces in a contemporary manner. He played with many distinguished jazz leaders in the 1950s and 1960s, including Bobby Hackett, Benny Goodman, Sidney Bechet, Jack Teagarden and Eddie Condon. In the late 1960s, he was an original member of the World's Greatest Jazz Band, and in the early 70s of Soprano Summit, a band which gained wide attention. In the late 1970s, he formed the Bechet Legacy Band.

Wilber was active in jazz education, including working as director of the Smithsonian Jazz Repertory Ensemble. He has written for films, including The Cotton Club. In his autobiography, Music Was Not Enough, he recounts his childhood, meeting his mentor Sidney Bechet, in 1946, and his struggles as a musician in the 1950s and 1960s.

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