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Saxophonist Ernie Wilkins, 79, Dead

June 5, 1999

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) _ American-born composer and saxophonist Ernie Wilkins, who played with Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and Lionel Hampton, died Saturday. He was 79.

Ernest Brooks Wilkins Jr., who was born in St. Louis, Missouri, suffered a stroke, his wife said.

He started playing saxophone in high school and later played in U.S. military bands. He joined the Count Basie orchestra in New York in 1951 and eventually wrote for Tommy Dorsey. Six years later, Wilkins joined Dizzy Gillespie’s band.

After playing with Clark Terry and Lionel Hampton and numerous European jazz festivals, Wilkins moved in 1980 to Copenhagen, where he set up his Almost Big Band.

Wilkins was guest conductor with several other bands. The list of musicians he has worked with includes Earl Hines, Sonny Rollins, Milt Jackson, Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne, and Quincy Jones.

Wilkins is survived by his wife Jenny and her two adult children.

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