Gerald Wilson, a bandleader, composer, musician, and long-time educator at the University of California, Los Angeles, died from complications of pneumonia on September 8 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 96 years old.
Professor Wilson was a native of Shelby, Mississippi, and began playing piano at the age of 4. At the age of 21 in 1939, he joined the Jimmie Lunceford Band as a trumpeter. After serving in World War II, Wilson formed his own band and worked with some of the great pop, jazz, and rhythm and blues musicians of the twentieth century.
Wilson taught a course entitled “The Development of Jazz” at UCLA from 1992 to 2008. During this period, he also directed a jazz band at the university.
“We have lost one of the true giants of American and 20th-century music,” said Kenny Burrell, director of jazz studies at UCLA. “He loved to teach, and he helped his students gain a better knowledge and appreciation of American music and the art of jazz.”