Ernie Wilkins (Ernest Brooks Wilkins)

Ernie Wilkins

Ernie Wilkins was born in St. Louis, Missouri. In his early career he played in a military band, before joining Earl Hines‘s last big band. He worked with Count Basie from 1951 to 1955, eventually leaving to work free-lance as a jazz arranger and songwriter. His success declined in the 1960s, but revived after work with Clark Terry, leading to a tour of Europe. Eventually Ernie Wilkins settled in Copenhagen,Denmark, where he would live for the rest of his life. There he formed the Almost Big Band so he could write for a band of his own formation. The idea was partly inspired by his wife Jenny. Copenhagen had a thriving jazz scene with several promising jazz musicians as well as a well-established community of expatriate American jazz musicians which had formed in the 1950s and now included representatives like Kenny Drew and Ed Thigpen who joined the band along with Danish saxophonist Jesper Thilo. The band released four albums, but after 1991 he became too ill to do much with it. He died inCopenhagen. Wilkins was responsible for orchestral arrangements on 1972’s self-titled album by Alice Clark, on Mainstream Records, a highly sought-after collectible today. Ernie Wilkins died on June 5, 1999 of a stroke. Wilkins has a street named after him in southern Copenhagen, “Ernie Wilkins Vej” (eng. Ernie Wilkins Street).


  • July, 20, 1922
  • USA
  • St. Louis, Missouri


  • June, 05, 1999
  • Copenhagen, Denmark

Cause of Death

  • stroke

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