Daily Archives: August 3, 2022

MUSIC AND STORIES: JOE WILDER, MICHAEL WEISS, JOHN WEBBER, LEWIS NASH at the VILLAGE VANGUARD (July 19, 2006)

Anyone who knew Joe Wilder, even slightly, felt his loving presence: he was a sunbeam who happened to make lovely music with the same ease he made friends. I’d first spoken with him at Jazz at Chautauqua in September 2004, and told him I had taken photographs of him at a local concert — Dick Hyman’s Perfect Jazz Repertory Quintet, which was then Joe, Dick, Phil Bodner, Milt Hinton, and Ronnie Bedford. An expert and tireless photographer, he was delighted to learn this and I offered to send him the photographs for his collection. He copied them and returned them, and sent them back with an elegant handwritten note.

I don’t think he had many opportunities in this century to lead his own group at a jazz club, although he was in demand at jazz parties. So when I learned that he would be leading a quartet at the Village Vanguard, I made a reservation, arrived early, and settled in. In 2006, I didn’t have a date, but I did have a small digital recorder, slightly longer than a pack of cigarettes, which I brought in, hoping to surreptitiously record the evening. As the band set up, I started the recorder, holding it under the table, hoping to be unobserved.

Alas, about thirty-five minutes in, one of the waitstaff spotted the glowing display, approached me, and said quietly, “You’ll have to leave if you don’t stop recording,” or words to that effect. I must have turned a deep red at being caught, but I was relieved he didn’t attempt to confiscate the recorder or make a fuss and have me removed. I did get to preserve three segments: the first, about thirty minutes uninterrupted; the second, one performance and some of Joe’s infamous puns; the third, a truncated LOVE FOR SALE where you can hear the malefactor being apprehended. Not incidentally, some years later I sent CD copies of this event to Joe and to his biographer, Ed Berger: they were thrilled. (Where were the jazz record labels when Joe had his week? A good question, with no answer.)

This year, I decided to share the music — but since I am a moral criminal, I reached out to pianist Michael Weiss (a Facebook friend who has also recorded gigs), then to string bassist John Webber, and Michael (another benefactor) got an OK from drummer Lewis Nash. So here you may hear.

This post is in honor of Joe and his friends, and for Solveig Wilder and her family.

Even though Joe didn’t play Tadd Dameron’s OUR DELIGHT, that title comes to mind:

Was this title oddly prescient in view of the third performance?

Caught . . .

I’m honored to have been there, and equally so that I can share some precious music with all of you.

John Webber said it best, “The world could use some more Joe Wilder!”

May your happiness increase!