Composed and Arranged by Alec Wilder
Edition: Octet Arrangement
Publisher: Jazz Lines Publications
It is with particular pride that Jazz Lines Publications presents edited and corrected publications of the library of octets composed by Alec Wilder, written between 1938 and 1940, with another group written in 1947. These were recorded for the Brunswick, Columbia and Vox labels, and a CD compilation of these octets is available from the Hep label.
During the late thirties, several composers were intrigued with short-form composing using jazz rhythms and harmonies. Wilder was writing arrangements for dance band and writing songs when he had a meeting with Joe Higgins, an executive with Brunswick Records. Higgins envisioned a new series that would also become popular and sell records. Wilder suggested that the ensemble be made up of woodwinds (so he could include such fellow Eastman School of Music alumni as Mitch Miller and Jimmy Carroll) with bass and drums. He was listening to the harpsichord quite a bit during this time – his friend John Barrows was composing pieces for the instrument, and Miller was performing concerts with harpsichordist Yella Pessl - so Wilder added that instrument as well. Alec wrote a test piece for the ensemble, and Brunswick executive and Wilder friend Morty Palitz gave the okay for a recording session to be held during December of 1938.
Wilder’s titles for these octets are sometimes autobiographical, sometimes elusive. Very early on, Wilder realized that the clarinets and flute could play swing rhythms easily, but the double-reeds could not (today many saxophone players double on oboe and bassoon, so this is no longer an issue). He successfully exploits this ‘swing vs. straight’ issue in his music, part of the reason why these pieces are even more popular today. He was also well trained in classical music: Sea Fugue, Mama is indeed a swinging classical fugue.
Reed 1: Oboe
Reed 2: Clarinet
Reed 3: Clarinet
Reed 4: Bass Clarinet
Reed 5: Bassoon