Tag Archives: Bob Wilber

Birch Hall Concerts Live

Birch Hall Concerts Live

Available on iTunes, Amazon and Innercityjazz.com

This is a new 2 CD set release on the Classic Jazz Label.  In my career I have had several musical “foils” starting with Benny Goodman but Bob Wilber ranks at the top.  We were together 5 years after forming the Bechet Legacy and this band gave me a chance to really spread my wings on my Louis Armstrong roots.  The simpatico Bob and I had together was unequalled and this album documents the pinnacle of this band. Definitely worth owning for your collection available from Classic Jazz Records , iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby.

China Boy :


first Review “All About Jazz”  :
The Bechet Legacy: The Bechet Legacy – Birch Hall Concerts Live (2013)By
Published: May 1, 2013Every so often a jewel of a recording is unearthed, prompting the obligatory question: “Why not sooner?” This wonderfully energetic, swinging effort is a treasure of an example.“The Bechet Legacy,” with woodwind artist Bob Wilber and trumpeter Glenn Zottola up front, delivers significant homage toSidney Bechet and to the Golden Era of hot jazz. The double-CD set, recorded live in England over three decades ago, is a home run of Ruthian swing.Somewhat overshadowed by his contemporary, Louis Armstrong‘s own legacy, saxophonist and clarinetist Sidney Bechet played a pivotal role in the development of the art form both here in the U.S. and as a longer-term resident and performer in Europe. His is the robust saxophone root of the tree that would eventually sprout Johnny Hodges(a Bechet student), Coleman Hawkins, and Charlie Parker.

Delivering an array of Swing Era standards from Bechet’s and others’ pens, Wilber, (a protégé of Bechet’s) and Zottola soar through the selections with enormous vigor. There’s significant swing across the two session dates where the musical magnificence—and joy—never ceases.

Legacy leader, Wilber, of World’s Greatest Jazz Band fame, swings heavy on both soprano and clarinet. His improvised lines burst with chops, innovation and expression. He’s got a gorgeous sound on both axes and is no “vibrato cornball” on either. Partner Zottola, a scion of Zottola trumpet mouthpiece fame, has all of the Armstrong vocabulary in his wheelhouse. He’s got a vibrant sound, chops galore and swings at a level that would send other trumpeters to the woodshed. Like Pops, he uses the upper register shrewdly to fire up his solo forays. These are two stellar musicians performing with the ultimate respect for the tradition at hand.

The selections include tunes associated with Bechet, Armstrong, Ellington and others (“China Boy,” “Lady Be Good,” “Memories of You). Supported by a cooking rhythm section of pianist, Mark Shane, drummer Butch Miles, guitarist Mike Peters and bassist, Len Skeat (and a vocal by Mrs. Bob Wilber, Pug Horton), this legacy creates its own.

There’s a timeless element to this wonderful music. With so much of today’s jazz over-intellectualized and sterile, Wilber, Zottola and team deliver a vivid, swinging exposure to a timeless musical tradition in a romp.

Track Listing: CD-1: Oh, Lady Be Good; Down in Honky Tonk Town; Coal Cart Blues; Egyptian Fantasy; Lazy Blues; Summertime; The Mooche; Daydream; Si Tu Voi Ma Mare; Dans Le Rue D’Antibes; I Keep Calling Your Name; Sweet Lorraine CD-2: I Let A Song Go Out of My Heart; China Boy; I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good; Just One of Those Things; Polka Dot Stomp; Happiness Is Just A Thing Called Joe; Dear Old Southland; Promenade Aux Champs- Elysees; Georgia Cabin; Memories of You; Swing That Music.

Personnel: Bob Wilber: soprano saxophone, clarinet; Glenn Zottola: trumpet; Mark Shane: piano; Mike Peter: guitar, banjo; Len Skeat: bass; Butch Miles: drums; Pug Horton: vocals.


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Bob Wilber /
Glenn Zottola

Birch Hall Concerts Live

Classic Jazz CJ 4

Bob Wilber formed The Bechet Legacy in honour of his former teacher, Sidney Bechet. Although Bob’s playing doesn’t sound at all like Bechet’s, he keeps the great man’s memory alive by playing his compositions and other music from the era when Bechet flourished. In fact Bob Wilber has a calmer approach to the clarinet and soprano sax than Sidney Bechet did. It was therefore a good idea for Wilber to recruit Glenn Zottola as his colleague in the front line of The Bechet Legacy, because Zottola has a very contrasting style.

Whereas most of Bob Wilber’s playing is legato, Glenn Zottola’s is generally the precise opposite – staccato. In fact Glenn might be called a disciple of Louis Armstrong, because his methods are so similar to Satch’s. While Bob Wilber charms with subtle romance and lyricism, Glenn Zottola astounds with high notes and hugely impressive displays.

This recording was made by an enthusiastic amateur at two concerts in Lancaster in the early 1980s. True to its name, The Bechet Legacy plays no fewer than eight compositions by Sidney Bechet, including the mysterious Egyptian Fantasy, the poignant Si Tu Vois Ma Mère, and the evocative Georgia Cabin. This is a reminder, if it were needed, that Bechet could compose atmospheric pieces.

Other highlights include Summertime, a tune which Sidney Bechet memorably recorded. Wilber follows in Bechet’s footsteps with several emotional choruses. The first CD ends with a cherishable version of Sweet Lorraine, starting at mid-tempo but hotting up when Zottola’s trumpet solo brings on the melodrama. Glenn also features in Memories of You, where he is backed simply by the rhythm section.

We can be glad that these recordings were dug out of the archives and made available for us all to enjoy.

Tony Augarde

Carnegie Hall and Benny Goodman

I have had a lot of high points in my career but this certainly ranks at the top. Great pianist John Bunch called me one day from the Astor Hotel and said Benny Goodman needs a trumpet player can you come down here right away which i certainly did.  After spending 2 years with Benny Goodman in his sextet being able to sit in Harry James chair at Carnegie Hall playing lead trumpet on the original 1938 charts and solos was the cherry on the cake. Anyone that was at the original 1938 concert was allowed to sit on the stage that night with the band. As i was playing I could see years dropping off the faces as those people who were teenagers “bobbysoxers” at the time reliving that historic night. The music paper was all brown from the Library of Congress and my parts had little handwritten notes on it from Harry James. At the end Benny’s daughter came on stage and gave Benny’s clarinet to Issac Stern for the Carnegie Hall Archives. Kudo’s to Bob Wilber for putting this together at the urging of his brother in law Grady Jensen the former Mayor of Scarsdale where Bob grew up and making it happen along with the Jersey Jazz Society.

I just received a tape from Bob Wilber I didn’t know existed of that night at Carnegie Hall in 1988. Apparently it was sitting in his archives which reminded me of the story Benny’s daughter told that night about finding the acetates of the original 1938 concert years later in the linen closet. Here is a sample of the Harry James piece i did on “Shine” . The story goes that Harry at 21 years old had tremendous admiration as everyone did for Louis Armstrong and wanted to take a try at a short version of “Shine” a famous Louie piece as a tribute. Bob through me the challenge that night and i took it playing my own solo. Glenn


Here is another arrangement written by the great Harry James 21 years old at the time. What a thrill not only playing lead trumpet but the solo !  For all you Jitterbugger’s remember the excitement when this music first hit your ears and feet !!

Life Goes To A Party :

Trumpeter Ziggy Elman did a famous solo on the Jewish classic “Bei Mir Bistu Shein”  .  I am not Jewish for sure but have done enough Jewish weddings where i was able to get the spirit with my own solo !

This is the famous jam session segment of the concert. What an honor to play with all these jazz legends. I take the 2nd trumpet solo after Doc Cheatum.

This is the intermission that night.  It was amazing to find out Issac Stern was a jazz fan and friend of Benny Goodman. He tells a story growing  up and  listening to Benny and coming to NY and hanging out on 52nd street.  Also Benny’s daughter gives an interesting backround on the 1938 recording and gives Benny’s clarinet to Issac Stern for the Carnegie Hall archives.  What a night !

Rhythm and Swinging

“Swinging” is one of the most amazing things in Vintage Jazz and probably the most mysterious and hardest to explain.  Case in point take an arrangement from any great jazz arranger like Quincy Jones and give it to a jazz musician and a classical musician.  When the jazz musician interprets the notes it will swing and when a classical musician interprets the notes except in rare cases, it will not.   Why, as they are the same exact notes on the page ?  Duke Ellington wrote a famous song :  “if it aint got that swing it don’t mean a thing” and I believe he meant it in the truest sense. Through the years I have noticed any great jazz arrangement I have played no matter how good, had little notations made by previous players related to interpretations of the music.  When I did the 50th anniversary at Carnegie Hall of the 1938 historic Benny Goodman Concert for Bob Wilber we had the original music from Library of Congress.  I was playing lead trumpet and there were handwritten notes on the music from Harry James who played lead trumpet in 1938.   So the point I am making is “jazz interpretation” by the player is key to playing any jazz written or otherwise.  All this has a very simple solution in my opinion.  Listen to the “great swingers” in jazz and it will eventually be obvious.  Of course one could explain technically what someone is doing when they swing like my football analogy on the earlier post but I believe a more direct and enjoyable route is just groove on the great swingers of all time and try to emulate that in your own playing.   Also a tip on the subject of “how to listen” in general which I will expand upon in subsequent posts.   When listening you can focus on a specific area, for example you can listen specifically for the “swing” factor in a performance and isolate that.  Let me say one more thing about this and this is in no way to invalidate later art forms which have their own strengths and beauty.  You will not hear the same “swing” in more modern forms of jazz and players that you will with “Vintage Jazz” and players.   Just like you won’t hear the same rhythmic factors (their own kind of swing) in Bach and Mozart that you would hear in Bartok or Stravinsky. That’s the beauty of it great art is an individual thing.


Louis Armstrong

Lillette Jenkins

Recorded 12 January 1988

  Louis Armstrong was my first mentor and inspriration and this album i did for Bob Wilber was a true joy. Great band and great material. Check out this arrangement Bob did on “Hotter Than That” where he took Louies original scat solo from the 1920s note for note and arranged it for 4 horns. Listen to the ensemble in the middle of the song after the tenor solo and can you believe how far ahead Louie was in every way rhythmically , harmonically and we are talking 1920s here. True genius  Wow !!

Hotter Than That :

Bob Wilber and Glenn Zottola

Bob Wilber is the greatest soprano player since Sidney Bechet and my years with him were truly a joy. He was a great “foil” for me and we inspired each other and this music was the result. This was recorded at The Smithsonian in DC and i happen to see this clip on you tube and it is availble from Sony on VHS at Amazon . Glenn

New Release “Jazz Titans”

Jazz Titans
When I left the Benny Goodman Sextet after 2 years i joined Bob Wilber who formed the Bechet Legacy and we did many tours and albums . Both those gigs allowed me to hone my skills playing in a classic jazz format that attracted me when i was very young with Louis Armstrong who was my first influence. I always wondered what it would be like to play in the format Benny had with his famous trio with Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa. I met Mark Shane in the Bechet Legacy and he blew me away with his playing out of the Teddy Wilson style. I had played with Teddy briefly and Mark definetly did that better than anyone since Teddy plus added other flavors of later styles like Hank Jones. I wanted this music even though it had no bass to have a spectrum from classic jazz to swing and even Be-Bop. I was on tour with Peanuts Hucko and Mark Shane was in that band also. The english drummer Mark Manniat also was a booking agent and brought over several american jazz artists like Peanuts to tour. We decided this would be a nice thing to try so Mark booked us on 2 tours in England two years in a row to rave reviews. After the second tour was over in 1994 I left for LA to be bandleader on the Suzanne Somers TV show. It’s great that Irv Kratka at Classic Jazz took an interest in this music and remastered the sound and pacakaged it so beautifully to preserve it. Glenn

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Sample Tracks:

Jubilee – Trumpet

These Foolish Things – Alto

spring cleaning – vocal

Live at Bechet’s

This was the first album and gig with the Bechet Legacy.  It was done at a new club that opened at the time in Manhattan called “Bechet’s”.  One night trumpet legend Jabbo Smith a contemporary of Louis Armstrong came in the club and sat ringside he was in his 80s. After the set was over he called me over to his table and said “you know young man when i was young i played just like you”!  I Continue reading Live at Bechet’s

Ode to Bechet

What a great album with Vic Dickenson.  I had the honor of playing in a 3 horn front line with Vic at Eddie Condon’s 6 nights a week when i first moved to Manhattan  Vic is truly a legend and played with Louie and many others.  Funny story we all wore tuxedos at Condon’s and it was a tourist stop for people from Europe.  It was very crowded and during the breaks Vic would go downstairs and sit Continue reading Ode to Bechet

The Music of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band

This was a great project for Bob Wilber. Recreation of the historic King Oliver Creole Band that made Louis Armstrong a star.  Another very interesting point was my older brother Bob who i always very much looked up to as a trumpet player and artist in a similar way to how Louie looked up to the older King Oliver did this project with me.   On this album Bob played all King Oliver’s parts and i played Continue reading The Music of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band