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Special Home > Guide to the Bob Wilber Papers, 1943-2006

Guide to the Bob Wilber Papers, 1943-2006

Collection number: MC 225

Size: 18 boxes (6.00 cu.ft.)

About Bob Wilbur

Robert Sage Wilber, clarinetist, saxophonist, composer, arranger, and educator, was born in New York City on March 15, 1928. He grew up in a musical household and recalls being fascinated with Ellington’s recording of “Mood Indigo” at the age of three. In 1935, Wilber moved to Scarsdale, NY and at 13 he began formal clarinet study. He started playing jazz in high school and often visited New York City’s 52nd Street absorbing the music of traditional jazzmen such as Pee Wee Russell, Sidney Bechet, Muggsy Spanier, and modern jazzmen Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker. Early on, he dedicated his life to jazz at the expense of formal college studies.

Wilber studied with Sidney Bechet in 1946, living with him for several months and sitting in with him occasionally at Jimmy Ryan’s. In 1948, Bechet sent him in his stead to Nice, France to perform at the first-ever jazz festival, after which Wilber toured with Mezz Mezzrow. In 1946 Wilber formed The Wildcats and recorded sides for Commodore and, with Bechet, for Columbia. In Boston from 1948 to 1951, he led a group of veteran jazzmen at the Savoy Cafe and also played at George Wein’s Storyville as a headliner with the De Paris brothers and Sid Catlett.

Wilber entered the Army in 1951, after which he studied with modernists Lennie Tristano and Lee Konitz. He also studied classical clarinet with Leon Russinoff for five years. During this time, Wilber had significant gigs with Eddie Condon and Bobby Hackett, and formed his own group, The Six, focusing on combining traditional and modern jazz elements. In 1958-59, he toured twice with the Benny Goodman Orchestra. In 1968, Wilber joined the World’s Greatest Jazz Band (WGJB) for six years. He began composing and writing more, and his music reflected increasingly progressive elements. In 1975, Wilber formed the highly regarded Soprano Summit along with co-leader Kenny Davern. This quintet featured both early jazz pieces and original music. The WGJB and Soprano Summit experience combined with work Wilber had done for Duke Ellington conventions in the 1960s reflected an increasing interest in jazz repertory work, not only recreating jazz from original scores but allowing for modern variations. In the 1970s and 1980s, he produced concerts for the New York Jazz Repertory Company and directed the Smithsonian Jazz Repertory Ensemble.

In 1981, Wilber formed Bechet Legacy, a group dedicated to the musical heritage of Sidney Bechet. Wilber was the musical director for the soundtrack to the movie The Cotton Club (for which he won a Grammy in 1986) and for the Broadway show Mr. Jelly Lord. In 1988, he assembled an orchestra and recreated the famous 1938 Benny Goodman concert at Carnegie Hall as well as at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

In 1989, Wilber organized and performed a Royal Ellington concert for the Queen, featuring the performance debut of Ellington’s “The Queen’s Suite.” In 1992, he persuaded Artie Shaw to visit England to conduct a concert at Royal Festival Hall in which Wilber played Shaw’s “Concerto for Clarinet” among other classical and jazz selections.

An internationally renowned and consummate jazz musician, Bob Wilber’s work is not finished. He continues to travel and perform extensively featuring his own original music as well as that of Bechet, Morton, Ellington, Goodman, and Henderson, among others. Wilber has performed with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (LCJO) several times in recent years, most recently as musical director for the LCJO Benny Goodman Centenary concert (May 2009). He has helped make jazz repertory an integral part of jazz education around the world.

In 2010, Wilber was selected as the headliner for the University of New Hampshire’s historic 200th concert in the Traditional Jazz Series.

About the Bob Wilbur Papers

The Bob Wilber papers are divided into seven series. Series I, Personal Life, documents Wilber’s life. Series II, Musical Career, comprises the bulk of the collection and details his career from the early years to the present day.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open.

Copyright Notice

Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Bob Wilber Papers, 1943-2006, MC 225, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.

Acquisitions Information

Donation, Bob Wilbur and Joanne “Pug” Horton, August 19, 2009 (Accession number: 2009.06)

Collection Contents

Series I: Personal Life

Box 1
Box 1, Folder 1 Early Years (1943-45): two letters, dated 1943, to his parents, and his high school English thesis on the subject of “Debussy and Impressionism in French Music, ”1945
Box 1, Folder 2 Army Service: service records
Box 1, Folder 3 Education (BA degree), 1982
Box 1, Folder 4 Bob and Pug
Box 1, Folder 5 Estate – Mother’s death
Box 1, Folder 6 Teaching – Antii Sarpila, 1979-1993
Box 1, Folder 7 Teaching – The New School, 1982
Box 1, Folder 8 Teaching – Wilkes College, 1982-1988
Box 1, Folder 9 Teaching – Other
Box 1, Folder 10 Writings: Autobiography
Box 1, Folder 11 Writings: Autobiography – Correspondence
Box 1, Folder 12 Writings: Autobiography – financial/legal
Box 1, Folder 13 Writings: Autobiography – promotional
Box 1, Folder 14 Writings: Autobiography – book reviews
Box 2
Box 2, Folder 1 Writing: Forty Years as a Working Musician
Box 2, Folder 2 Writing: Other

Series II: Musical Career

Box 2, Folder 3 Scarsdale/Wildcats, 1944-1948
Box 2, Folder 4 Studying with Sidney Bechet, 1946
Box 2, Folder 5 Nice International Fesitval, 1948
Box 2, Folder 6 Boston/New York years, 1948-1951
Box 2, Folder 7 Studying with Tristano and Konitz, 1951-1952
Box 2, Folder 8 Army Years, 1951-1953
Box 2, Folder 9 The Six, 1954-1956
Box 2, Folder 10 Eddie Condon, 1956-1957
Box 2, Folder 11 Hackett/Goodman, 1957-1959
Box 2, Folder 12 General Programs, 1950s
Box 2, Folder 13 Freelancing, 1960-1968
Box 2, Folder 14 World’s Greatest Jazz Band, 1969-1974

Box 2, Folder 15 General programs/articles, 1960s
Box 3
Box 3, Folder 1 Soprano Summit, 1973-1977
Box 3, Folder 2 New York Jazz Repertory Company, 1974-1975
Box 3, Folder 3 Bob, Dave, and Pug, 1978-1979
Box 3, Folder 4 Bob and Pug, 1978-1980
Box 3, Folder 5 General articles, interviews, 1970s
Box 3, Folder 6 General programs, 1970s
Box 4
Box 4, Folder 1 National Endowment for the Arts grants, 1979-1984
Box 4, Folder 2 Jazz Repertory Ensemble – programs, 1979-1985
Box 4, Folder 3 Jazz Repertory Ensemble – concert announcement and reviews, 1979-1985
Box 4, Folder 4 Swingin’ for the King, 1979-1985
Box 4, Folder 5 Bechet Legacy – reviews, 1981-1983
Box 4, Folder 6 Bechet Legacy – programs, 1981-1983
Box 5
Box 5, Folder 1 Duke Ellington conference, 1981, 1985
Box 5, Folder 2 Production: My One and Only, 1982
Box 5, Folder 3 The Cotton Club: articles, announcements, reviews, 1984
Box 5, Folder 4 The Cotton Club: articles, announcements, reviews (con’t), 1984
Box 5, Folder 5 The Cotton Club: Contracts, 1984
Box 5, Folder 6 The Cotton Club: Crouch article and comments, 1984-1985
Box 5, Folder 7 Ephemera, 1984
Box 6
Box 6, Folder 1 Production: Mr. Jelly Lord, 1985
Box 6, Folder 2 Hyman/Wilber, Pennsylvania Tour, 1987
Box 6, Folder 3 Benny Goodman Big Band, 1987-1989
Box 6, Folder 4 Benny Goodman Big Band: announcements and reviews, 1987-1989
Box 6, Folder 5 Benny Goodman Big Band: programs, 1987-89
Box 6, Folder 6 Benny Goodman Carnegie Hall Concert Recreation: background and correspondence, 1988
Box 6, Folder 7 Benny Goodman Carnegie Hall Concert Recreation: programs, announcements, reviews, 1988
Box 7
Box 7, Folder 1 Ellington “Queen’s Suite,” 1989
Box 7, Folder 2 Royal Viking Star Cruises, 1989-1990
Box 7, Folder 3 General programs, 1980s
Box 7, Folder 4 General programs, 1980s
Box 7, Folder 5 General articles and reviews, 1980s
Box 7, Folder 6 Foreign language reviews, 1980s
Box 8
Box 8, Folder 1 Production: Bix, 1990
Box 8, Folder 2 Pizza in the Park concerts, 1990s
Box 8, Folder 3 Artie Shaw Project: announcement, reviews, programs, and press releases, 1992
Box 8, Folder 4 Artie Shaw Project: correspondence, 1992
Box 8, Folder 5 Soprano Summit Reunion, 1992
Box 8, Folder 6 Arbors Jazz Parties, mid-1990s
Box 8, Folder 7 Retirement, 1995
Box 8, Folder 8 Bechet at 100: announcements, reviews, programs, correspondence, 1997
Box 8, Folder 9 General programs, reviews/interviews, 1990s
Box 9
Box 9, Folder 1 General programs, 1990s
Box 9, Folder 2 General programs, 1990s
Box 9, Folder 3 General programs, 1990s
Box 9, Folder 4 General programs, 1990s
Box 10
Box 10, Folder 1 Nicholas Payton concert and CD: correspondence, 2006
Box 10, Folder 2 General programs, 2000s
Box 10, Folder 3 Programs, undated
Box 10, Folder 4 Publicity/reviews, undated

Series III: Miscellaneous

Box 10, Folder 5 Awards and polls
Box 10, Folder 6 Bodeswell Recording Co.
Box 10, Folder 7 Classical performances
Box 10, Folder 8 Concert notes, lists, undated materials
Box 10, Folder 9 Contracts (recording and performing)
Box 10, Folder 10 Correspondence
Box 10, Folder 11 Discography
Box 10, Folder 12 Itineraries and calendars
Box 11
Box 11, Folder 1 Music scores
Box 11, Folder 2 Non-Wilber articles
Box 11, Folder 3 Non-Wilber programs, signed, 1950s

Series IV: Record Reviews

Box 11, Folder 4 Audiophile – Bodeswell
Box 11, Folder 5 Challenge – World Jazz
Box 11, Folder 6 General

Series V: Joanne “Pug” Horton

Box 12
Box 12, Folder 1 Career
Box 12, Folder 2 Cookbook
Box 12, Folder 3 Personal/family

Series VI: Photographs

(Unprocessed: Boxes 13 – 16)

Series VII: Oversize Material

Oversize Box 1

Catalog – Empress of the Blues

Leather file of original music scores

Oversize Box 2

Bob Wilber: A Man and His Music: poster

Certificate for band training course, Fort Dix, NJ, 1952

“World’s Greatest Show Restraint” article and cartoon

UNH Traditional Jazz series concert poster, 2008

Bechet Legacy poster

Down Beat poster, 1954

The Royal Ellington poster, 1989

Oversize Pug Horton photos