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Sunday, August 04, 2019

RIP Bob Wilber (1928-2019)

Colin Aitchison has passed on the sad news that soprano saxophonist and clarinet player Bob Wilber passed away either last night or early this morning. Bob was an occasional visitor to Ned Kelly's in Kowloon where he often sat in with the China Coast Jazzmen led by Colin. The two became good friends and Colin visited him at his home in Chipping Campden on several occasions where they enjoyed jamming together.

I remember a memorable concert at the Breda Jazz Festival in, I think, 1981 with Bob on soprano and clarinet (pictured), Warren Vaché on cornet and Guy Lafitte on tenor. This was one of the best concerts I've ever attended - all 3 players gelling perfectly with each other.

On another occasion, at the North Sea Jazz Festival I almost had breakfast with Bob and his wife, vocalist Pug Horton. We were all staying at the same hotel just outside of Den Haag. Bob and Pug sat down at the table next to me and we exchanged 'good mornings'. The waiter approached and Bob showed him his musicians' identity card.
"Musicians eat in the upstairs restaurant" said the waiter.
"We prefer to eat down here" replied Bob.
"Down here is extra" said the waiter.
"We eat upstairs" said Bob and they departed.

I also heard him at Newcastle City Hall as part of the World's Greatest Jazz Band and, with the same band, at the legendary Cleveland Jazz Festival held in Middlesbrough in 1978. His playing never disappointed.

A Bechet disciple who quickly developed his own thing Bob Wilber will be remembered as one of the all-time greats and, if I had been able to share breakfast with him, I'm sure I'd have found him to be a true gentleman. I'm pretty certain the waiter would have known about it if it had been Ruby Braff and not Bob Wilber!

Bob Wilber was 91 - he will be sadly missed. Our thoughts are with Pug.
Rest In Peace,
Lance
Obituary.

1 comment :

Jim Denham said...

A last direct link to the era of Louis, Condon and (especially) Bechet, has been broken.

I like the story Bob recounted in his memoir ('Music Was Not Enough') of his time with the Eddie Condon band (they toured the UK in 1957). Bob recalls that he was then something of a perfectionist. One night Condon whispered to him on the bandstand: “Hey, kid! Make a mistake!”

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