One of the jazz world’s best known arrangers, Ernie Wilkins (1919-1999) was born in Saint Louis where he and his childhood pal Clark Terry gigged as teenagers. It was Clark Terry, when working with the Basie band invited Wilkins’s to try out for the Count’s successful organization in the early 1950s.
Ernie Wilkins transformed Basie’s band with his arrangements and compositions. One of the first tunes he penned was "Everyday I Have The Blues," sung by Joe Williams. Wilkins worked with such popular vocalists as Big Maybelle, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington. In 1979, he packed his bags and moved to Copenhagen, Denmark where he continued to work within music. In 1991, he suffered a stroke and passed away eight years later in his adoptive Denmark. After his death, the Ernie Wilkins Almost Big Band
continued under the direction of Per Goldschmidt and Erling Kroner.
The content of The Everest Years
presents three recording sessions from the Everest studios in New York. The pioneering "stereo" label captured the Wilkins band with the finest equipment and technical prowess of the period. The sessions date from 1959 and 1960. Full discographical information is included. The first two dates, December 9, 1959 and January 11, 1960 were incorporated into Everest’s Here Comes The Swingin’ Mr. Wilkins
vinyl LP. The third studio session involved a smaller unit released in 1960 under the title The Big New Band Of The 60s
. In their reissue, Empire Musicwerks preserves the integrity of the music by including the original LP liner notes by, then Downbeat
associate editor, Nat Hentoff.
The CD features three Wilkins compositions, "Fresh Flute," "Ernie’s Blues" and "A Swinging Serenade." The remaining twenty one songs are his arrangements of standards by such names as Ellington, Walter Donaldson, the Gershwins, Eddie Heywood and more.
The players are considered superstars and legends today. Take a moment to scan the list of musicians on these gigs. You’ll notice Clark Terry, Zoot Sims, Eddie Costa, Jimmy Jones, Benny Golson, Joe Newman, Seldon Powell, Ron Carter, Charlie Persip, Thad Jones, Al Grey, Charlie Shavers and the venerable Basie guitarist Freddie Green. It’s an all-star lineup in anyone’s language. Sound samples may be heard at the label’s website.