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Steve Wilson: Consummate Pro

By Published: May 26, 2008
"Those are two of my greatest professional experiences, and personal. Both of those guys are absolute giants in terms of what they do. The thing that impresses me the most about them, and was impressed upon me the most, is that they are not resting on any laurels. As long as they've been on the scene, as many dues as they've paid, and as accomplished as they are, they both are looking to constantly push the envelope, to find the next chapter. Every time they touch the instrument. It's pretty amazing; the level of creativity from night to night was always on the highest level, which is infectious. As a player, it makes you want to best yourself every night. That was probably the greatest lesson I took away from both of those experiences. They are just so respectful of musicians and of the music. It's the highest that one can experience in the business."

The 1990s also saw records coming out under his own name, like Four for Time (Criss Cross, 1996), Step Lively (Criss Cross, 1995) and Blues For Marcus (Criss Cross, 1993). He's recorded steadily since and he's looking forward to this year's recording projects, even at time when the music industry has changed so much, with major labels having less influence and some artists eschewing them altogether. The scene, it is a-changing.

"I think there is a positive aspect to it in that it puts the music back into the hands of the musicians, so that we have full control, at least over artistic aspect of it," says Wilson. "Even if a label is expressing interest in involving themselves or releasing it; at least the artistic statement is true. That wasn't always the case when labels are involved. When they're putting up the money, they have say in the product. But now there's a lot of wonderful music coming out on independent labels and artists' own labels. It's great to see it. It's great to see the musicians being empowered. Of course the challenge is how to get the product out there. But it makes us all be creative about that as well.

Steve WilsonHe notes that the club scene is not as good as it was in the '80s. "I arrived here in 1987, and for a good 15-year period—before 9/11 and before Bradley's [a noted NYC piano bar and hangout for musicians] closed—the scene was great. Even when one club closed, another opened and filled the slot. There were more clubs around. You could see many of the great mainstays, people like Kenny Barron, Ray Drummond... Victor Lewis. You could see those folks every night.

"Now the scene is very different. There aren't as many clubs. The ones that we have, we do treasure them because they keep the music alive. But we don't have a Bradley's anymore. I don't think the scene has even been without a gathering place for all the musicians, where all the musicians could meet, see each other, share music and stories. I don't think we've ever been without that. The scene has changed drastically since that is not there. I'm thinking of the young musicians who just get in town and they want to go to a place and be able to see the Who's Who of the music scene. And of course to go out to a club now can be very expensive. How many nights a week can even the most diehard fan go out to a club?

"But with that said, we do have some wonderful venues here," says the upbeat Wilson, in his calm, yet reasoned, fashion. "We do treasure them. I think overall, it's still positive. It's not like it was in a better era, but it's still vital. So, we'll take what we can get."

For Wilson, it seems to be plenty. He's worked hard to earn it and his skills are excellent enough to sustain it. Good news for jazz.

Selected Discography

Maria Schneider, Sky Blue (ArtistShare, 2007)
Steve Wilson, Soulful Song (MaxJazz, 2003)
Steve Wilson, Passages (Stretch, 2000)
Steve Wilson, Generations (Stretch, 1998)
Chick Corea & Origin, Origin (Concord, 1998)
Chick Corea Chick Corea & Origin - Live at the Blue Note (Stretch, 1997)
Avishai Cohen, Adama (Concord, 1997)
Steve Wilson, Four for Time (Criss Cross, 1996)
Steve Wilson, Step Lively (Criss Cross, 1995)
Steve Wilson, Blues For Marcus (Criss Cross, 1993)
Bruce Barth, Morning Call (Enja, 1994)
Don Braden, After Dark (Criss Cross, 1993)

Photo Credits
Top Photo: Ben Johnson
Bottom Photo: C. Andrew Hovan

Featured Photo: John Abbott

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