Alec Wilder Octet – Vox Records Set VSP-301 – 1947 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Something a little out of the ordinary this weekend. The music of Alec Wilder featuring an octet and recorded by Vox Records in 1947.
The music of Alec Wilder doesn’t really conform to one genre or another – it’s many genres, mixed and blended and totally original.
He was largely self-taught as a composer; he studied privately with the composers Herman Inch and Edward Royce, who taught at the Eastman School of Music in the 1920s, but never registered for classes and never received his degree. While there, he edited a humor magazine and scored music for short films directed by James Sibley Watson. Wilder was eventually awarded an honorary degree in 1973.
He was good friends with Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett and other luminaries of the American popular music canon. Among the popular songs he wrote or co-wrote were “I’ll Be Around” (a hit for the Mills Brothers), “While We’re Young” (recorded by Peggy Lee and many others), “Blackberry Winter”, “Where Do You Go?” (recorded by Sinatra) and “It’s So Peaceful in the Country”. He also wrote many songs for the cabaret artist Mabel Mercer, including one of her signature pieces, “Did You Ever Cross Over to Sneden’s?”. Wilder also occasionally wrote his own lyrics, including for his most famous song “I’ll Be Around”. Other lyricists he worked with included Loonis McGlohon, William Engvick, Johnny Mercer and Fran Landesman.
In addition to writing popular songs, Wilder also composed classical pieces for exotic combinations of orchestral instruments. The Alec Wilder Octet, including Eastman classmate Mitch Miller on oboe, recorded several of his originals for Brunswick Records in 1938-40. His classical numbers, which often had off-beat, humorous titles (“The Hotel Detective Registers”), were strongly influenced by jazz. He wrote eleven operas; one of which, Miss Chicken Little (1953), was commissioned for television by CBS. Wilder also arranged a series of Christmas carols for Tubachristmas.
Sinatra conducted the Columbia String Orchestra on “Frank Sinatra Conducts the Music of Alec Wilder”, an album of Wilder’s classical music (1946). Wilder also contributed two tone poems, “Grey” and “Blue”, to the 1956 album “Frank Sinatra Conducts Tone Poems of Color”.
I’ve posted Wilder’s music here before – the Brunswick sides and some of the pieces from the Frank Sinatra album on Columbia. There was another, issued by Riverside in the 1950s featuring guitarist Mundell Lowe, which has never been reissued and may likely never be reissued (don’t ask me why).
All in all, the music of Alec Wilder is well worth investigating. Here’s the track listing:
1. Jack, This Is My Husband
2. The Amorous Poltergeist
3. They Needed No Words
4. Remember Me To Youth
5. Footnote To A Summer Love
6. A Little Girl Grows Up
7. The Children Met The Train
8. Little White Samba
Relax and have a listen.