Joseph Benjamin Wilder (February 22, 1922 – May 9, 2014) was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer.
Wilder was born into a musical family led by his father Curtis, a bassist and bandleader in Philadelphia. Wilder’s first performances took place on the radio program “Parisian Tailor’s Colored Kiddies of the Air”. He and the other young musicians were backed up by such illustrious bands as Duke Ellington‘s and Louis Armstrong‘s that were also then playing at the Lincoln Theater. Wilder studied at the Mastbaum School of Music in Philadelphia, but turned to jazz when he felt that there was little future for an African-American classical musician. At the age of 19, Wilder joined his first touring big band, Les Hite’s band. Wilder was one of the first thousand African Americans to serve in the Marines during World War II. He worked first in Special Weapons and eventually became Assistant Bandmaster at the headquarters’ band. Following the war during the 1940s and early 1950s, he played in the orchestras of Jimmie Lunceford, Herbie Fields, Sam Donahue, Lucky Millinder, Noble Sissle, Dizzy Gillespie, and finally with the Count BasieOrchestra. From 1957 to 1974, Wilder did studio work for ABC-TV, New York City, and in the pit orchestras for Broadway musicals, while building his reputation as a soloist with his albums for Savoy (1956) and Columbia (1959). His Jazz from Peter Gunn (1959), features ten songs from Henry Mancini (“Peter Gunn“) television score in melodic and swinging fashion with a quartet. He was also a regular sideman with such musicians as NEA Jazz Masters Hank Jones, Gil Evans, and Benny Goodman. He became a favorite with vocalists and played for Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Johnny Mathis, Harry Belafonte, Eileen Farrell, Tony Bennett, and many others. Wilder earned a bachelor of music degree in 1953, studying classical trumpet at the Manhattan School of Music with Joseph Alessi, where he was also principal trumpet with the school’s symphony orchestra under conductor Jonel Perlea. In the 1960s, he performed on several occasions with the New York Philharmonic under Andre Kostelanetz and Pierre Boulez and played lead for the Symphony Of The New World from 1965 to 1971.