Take Five With Dave Wilson
Some of the highlights include regular appearances at Chris' Jazz Cafe (one of the leading jazz venues in Philadelphia); the Media (PA) Jazz By Night Festival; also in PA, The Berk's Jazz Fest, Harrisburg's American Music Festival, Bethlehem Musikfest, Lancaster Jazz Festival, York JazzFest (headlining in 2009 with Jim Ridl, Tony Marino, and Adam Nussbaum), and, with the Canal Street Hot 6, the Hot Steam Jazz Festival (Connecticut), The Suncoast Jazz Society (Clearwater, Fla), Baltimore's Camden Yards. On these and other engagements Wilson has worked with the likes of pianists Jim Ridl (Pat Martino), Phil Markowitz (Dave Liebman); bassists Tony Marino (Dave Liebman), Steve Varner (Pat Martino); drummers Adam Nussbaum, Bill Goodwin (Phil Woods), Marko Marcinko (Dave Liebman); as well as Steve Rudolph (legendary PA based pianist); Saxophonist Tim Warfield; and the legendary Philadelphia guitarist and jazz guru Steve Giordano, among others.
A highlight of Wilson's career was in the fall of 2002, when he released the first CD under his own name, titled Through the Time, featuring himself on tenor and soprano saxophones; Kirk Reese on piano; Steve Meashey on bass; and Jeff Stabley on drums. The release was picked up by Dreamscape Records and received significant airplay on WRTI-FM in Philadelphia, and enjoyed additional airplay on over 30 jazz stations nationwide! Through the Time found itself on a few individual stations top 5 stats. A second CD by the Dave Wilson Quartet titled My Time was released in late 2005 on Dreambox Media, a leading Independent record company out of Philadelphia. It garnered favorable reviews nationwide, including such publications as The Philadelphia Inquirer, All About Jazz, as well as the March, 2007 issue of Jazz Times. It was in radio promotion in late 2006-early 2007 with Mike Carlson and again became a favorite at WRTI as well as some 35-40 jazz stations nationwide achieving chartbound status and peaking at #55 on the Jazz Week album chart rankings! Additionally My Time was invloved in a national campaign for publicity with Kari Gaffney (Kari-On Productions) and garnered top notch reviews. Dave has a new recording Spiral, featuring internationally known personnel, Phil Markowitz on Piano, Tony Marino on Bass, and Adam Nussbaum on Drums, just released this June on nationally known Summit Records and already garnering national airplay and rave reviews. The momentum is growing daily, as reviewers and listeners experience the Dave Wilson vibe!
Wilson's experience also includes being a long standing member (retired to focus on his own endeavors) of the Dave Stahl Sacred Orchestra and Dave Stahl Big Band, (Dave Stahl is one of the leading Jazz trumpet artists in the nation. The DSSO released 2CDs out on their own, both of which he performed on. With the big band he played alongside such Jazz luminaries as Wynton Marsalis, Tom Harrell, Lew Soloff (BS & T), the late Steve Marcus, John Fedchock, Conrad Herwig, Gary Smulyan, Steve Smith (from Journey), John Riley, among others. Dave has studied with the great saxophonists Joe Lovano, Bill Barron, Ralph Lalama, Glenn Guidone, Tom Stroman, as well as the afore mentioned Steve Giordano and pianist Kirk Reese. Wilson is a striking saxophonist with chops and maturity of tone that invokes passions and enthusiasm when listening to his vocabulary in jazz.
Rooted strongly in a music background since the fourth grade, Wilson continues to forge his name in jazz as a lasting influence. Wilson has been residing in the Lancaster, PA area since 1983.
Instrument(s): Tenor and Soprano Saxophone
Teachers and/or influences? I studied with the great saxophonists Joe Lovano, Bill Barron, Ralph Lalama, Glenn Guidone, Tom Stroman, as well as the lengedary guitarist and Philadelphia jazz guru Steve Giordano and unsung pianist Kirk Reese. My main influences as players have been the saxophonists John Coltrane, Joe Lovano, Michael Brecker, but also Dexter Gordon (who I caught several times), Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, and Bud Freeman (who is a big influence on my Trad jazz playing).
I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I heard John Coltrane play "My Favorite Things" and rented my first Tenor. Also when I saw the Woody Herman Band play at Disney Land in the early 1973. Also when I saw Dexter Gordon at the Village Vanguard in 1976 I think it was. Also when I saw Sun Ra and then Cecil Taylor at the reopened Five Spot in the West Village in the mid-70's. Those and others were great memories, and fuel for inspiration.
Your sound and approach to music: My sound, in one regard, is the result of my equipment, my set up. I tend to favor the Selmer Mark VI vintage saxophones for tenor and alto; I play a vintage Yamaha YSS-62RS soprano. I favor the vintage Otto Link metal mouthpieces for the tenor, a New York hard rubber Meyer for alto, and this same old stock Otto Link #7 for soprano that I have been using for the last 15 years. I am slightly indifferent to my sound on alto; more serious about the soprano sound, and a bit fanatical about the tenor sound. The tenor has always been my first love on the saxophone, and I spend enough time experimenting with different mouthpieces, reeds, ligatures, and even horns. I think I have found the one Selmer Mark VI for the tenor, and then another comes along after a year or 2 or 3 or 4.
The sound is also the sum of all my experience with Saxophone, Clarinet, and Flute. I spend a lot of time with the clarinet, it was my first instrument. I play and teach it professionally, and I think it influences my sound. I love the sound and the feel of the clarinet. I have also spent a fair amount of time playing and teaching classical (music) technique on Alto and Tenor and this has some bearing. But I am a big collector and listener (and some time transcriber) of all the greats and also-rans on the jazz saxophone. Each has his (or her) own unique sound; their own personality. When one improvises, composes spontaneously if you well, that which comes out is the cumulative of all your experience with music and the horn.
When I make a CD it is very much a personal statement; of what I am as a saxophonist and musician, and what I am trying to communicate to the audience. I like to write a lot of my own material, or with another person's tune, provide what I hope to be a unique arrangement to it. The process is like an exorcism; it is an arduous yet sweet process, where I am totally consumed for about 3-4 months leading up to the studio time. Especially for this last effort Spiral, where I got the really heavy cats Phil Markowitz, Tony Marino, and Adam Nussbaum; who by the way were so pleasant, encouraging, and helpful in the studio, with their consummate playing and great ideas. But it is me. A real aim of mine is to engage and communicate with the audience while still being true to my own principles.
Your teaching approach: I do a lot of lessons, have been teaching privately for over 20 years. I try to meet my students halfway, where they are at and not where I would like them to be at. I am not one to shove unrealistic dreams down their throats. So many of my students are just regular kids, who are involved with all sorts of activities, and music is something they do for school or as a hobby, even if they are good. I remember, myself, that I used to play a lot of sports in high school. When I get a real good one, I try to take them as far as they can go, usually with this thing we call jazz or improvised music.
Your dream band: Dreaming? Elvin Jones on drums, McCoy Tyner on Piano, Jaco Pastorius on Bass.
Road story: Your best or worst experience: I was playing in a disco/funk band in Queens, N.Y. in the late '70s, and for a few weeks we played this one after hours joint in Far Rockaway where we came on at 4:00 and 6:00 in the morning. To get to the place, we drove behind J.F.K. airport through Howard Beach which was "John Gotti" territory. It was at this time that the Lufthansa Robbery occurred out at the airport.
Favorite venue: Chris' Jazz Cafe in Philadelphia. The most popular spot for live jazz in Philly, with a great audience that helps keep the music alive.
The Belvedere in Lancaster, PA. Where I have been playing once a month since 2000.
Back in the day, The Parkside, on State Street in Harrisburg, PA. We played there 1-3 times a month during the 1990's.
Your favorite recording in your discography and why? Love Supreme, Live at the Village Vanqard, Live at Newport and Giant Steps by John Coltrane. He was the man!
The first Jazz album I bought was: Something by MJQ. Can't remember what it was called. And then I think it was John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things." And early inspiration was a Paul Butterfield Blues Band double live album that featured Gene Dinwiddie on the tenor.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? I like to try to emphasize a certain kind of sincerity and honesty that is coming out of my horn. Whether I am playing my own creative stuff, or a Traditional Jazz gig ( which I love) or a commercial, variety type of job; people can hear that I love what I am doing, I am into it, and that I am sincere about my approach and what I am trying to communicate to the audience.
How would you describe the state of jazz today? With the sorry state of live music, jazz is in even worse shape. I think it is being classicalized; being nudged or shoved into the world of academia, (where at least it stays alive and can grow prosper in this way). As the music slips out of the realm of popular music (which it has been doing since the late 1940's), the gigs get less, and one has to work harder for them. The audience is getting older, and the young
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? For one, Education. In the schools, in the media, in our culture. A public that is of the mind set to support jazz as an art form and as a popular cultural entity. People have to come out to the gig scene and spend money to do so if it calls for it. Again, it is not just jazz but live music. And the performers need to be compensated. How about all these weekend warriors and hobbyists who go around performing for free or tips? Does that help the professional musician? We miss a strong musicians union.
What is in the near future? I have been extremely lucky to average about 150 music jobs/gigs a year since 1990; from jazz to Dixie to Variety to Big Band to ethnic; in my book it is all good. I had 2 jobs this week, I have 4 next week. Central PA has been like an oasis for me and my friends. (Shhh! Don't tell anybody how many gigs we play out here for all these years.)
By Day: Private instructor on woodwinds. 25-30 students now. Proprietor of Dave Wilson's Musical Instruments, specializing in the buying and selling of principally Woodwind and Brass Musical Instruments.
If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a: Probably in some kind of marketing or business situation, or possibly a teacher in a school system somewhere.