Gerald Wiggins has long been a highly flexible pianist quite comfortable in swing or bop settings, but he is at his best when performing with his longtime trio, a group also including bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Paul Humphrey. Wiggins' swinging and consistently witty style, typically filled with catchy riffs, is at times reminiscent of Erroll Garner and Art Tatum, but generally quite distinctive.
"The Wig" started with piano lessons when he was four, switching from classical music to jazz as a teenager. He doubled on bass while attending the High School & Art and worked for a time in the early '40s as a piano accompanist for Stepin Fetchit. Wiggins played with Les Hite, and in 1943 toured with the big bands of Louis Armstrong and Benny Carter. While in the military (1944-1946), he often played in local jazz clubs in Seattle. After his discharge, he settled permanently in the Los Angeles area. A popular accompanist for singers, Wiggins worked with Lena Horne (touring with her from 1950-1951), Helen Humes, Ella Mae Morse, Eartha Kitt, Nat King Cole, Kay Starr, Lou Rawls, Ernie Andrews, Linda Hopkins, and Joe Williams, among others. Wiggins was also employed as a vocal coach at Hollywood film studios and had the opportunity to work with Marilyn Monroe.
In the Los Angeles area, Wiggins has led trios since the 1950s, becoming a consistent fixture in local clubs. In recent times, he has played piano with Frank Capp Juggernaut and worked with fellow Concord artists, like Scott Hamilton. Gerald Wiggins has led sessions through the years for Swing and Vogue (both in 1950), Ember, Crown, Tampa, Specialty, Motif, Mode, Challenge, Hi-Fi, Contemporary (1961), Black & Blue, and, in the 1990s, Concord. His son J.J. Wiggins is a fine bassist.
- By Scott Yanow
All Music Group