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Sarah Wilson

While deeply shaped by jazz, Wilson’s music stylistically owes as much to avant pop, Afro-Latin grooves and indie rock as the post-bop continuum. Wilson’s artistic work reflects a dynamic interplay of theater, jazz, dance, and film, which frame her unique, fresh compositional style. Sarah Wilson’s 2021 third album Kaleidoscope (Brass Tonic Records) reflects that unique chemistry inspired by some of the key musicians in her creative life. She’s joined by a nonpareil cast of improvisers, including pianist Myra Melford, drummer Matt Wilson, violinist Charles Burnham, bassist Jerome Harris, and guitarist John Schott.

Her music has premiered nationally and internationally and she has earned wide critical acclaim for her recordings including her 2010 Brass Tonic Records release, Trapeze Project. This CD features herself on trumpet and vocals with pianist Myra Melford, bassist Jerome Harris, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, and drummer Scott Amendola and showcases her "...danceable, visually evocative, and melodic music that is both sophisticated and accessible" (Jazziz).

Wilson's original work has earned numerous prestigious commissions from venerable foundations such as the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Center for Cultural Innovation, SF Arts Commission, Fleishhacker Foundation, Zellerbach Foundation, East Bay Community Foundation, New Music USA, and de Young Museum Cultural Encounters Initiative in collaboration with Intersection for the Arts.

Her music is fueled by large-scale community-based arts projects including a 2021 music production, Tenderloin Voices, in collaboration with the Tenderloin Museum and Larkin Street Youth Services working with formerly homeless youth. She was a 2011-2012 Artist Fellow at the de Young Museum with funding from The James Irvine Foundation and created Off the Walls, a music and aerial dance production in collaboration with LA-based dance company, Catch Me Bird.

Wilson didn't come to music through the usual channels. As an undergraduate anthropology major at the University of California at Berkeley, Wilson, a lapsed high school trumpet player, took a strong interest in theater. A visiting artist from Vermont’s globe-trotting Bread and Puppet Theater inspired her to move east to work on their spectacular giant-puppet productions after graduation. She spent two years as a member of the troupe touring around the world, increasingly conducting, arranging and performing music for their shows.

In 1993, she moved to New York City to concentrate on music, studying with trumpeters John McNeil and Laurie Frink and Schoenberg scholar, Paul Caputo. Through her affiliation with Bread and Puppet Theater, she soon found herself musical director and composer of Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors Festival’s annual puppet program for a six-year tenure. Wilson absorbed other sources of inspiration from the eclectic downtown New York new music scene of the 1990s into her compositions, and found plenty of NYC’s heaviest jazz musicians to play them. She also scored the American Museum of Natural History’s Body Art exhibit and performed trumpet and vocals with NYC theater companies Circus Amok and Great Small Works.

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Album Review

Sarah Wilson: Kaleidoscope

Read "Kaleidoscope" reviewed by Angelo Leonardi

Il percorso musicale di Sarah Wilson—molto diverso da quello dei colleghi trombettisti—ha formato una personalità eclettica, che il suo terzo disco mostra con chiarezza e fa della singolarità una ricchezza. Come sintetizza il titolo, il percorso musicale è un caleidoscopio di situazioni diverse, che ruotano attraverso alcune costanti: delicate folk ballad, estroversi quadri calypso o brani jazzistici di sapore country. Anche grazie ai notevoli partner che le sono vicino, il risultato è ricco e accattivante. Con la Wilson ...

Album Review

Sarah Wilson: Kaleidoscope

Read "Kaleidoscope" reviewed by Jerome Wilson

Trumpeter Sarah Wilson has had several unique experiences throughout the development of her musical career, such as writing music for dance productions and puppet shows. That is reflected in the wide range displayed on this aptly-titled CD which draws as much from folk music, classical music, African pop and indie rock as it does from jazz. Wilson has a top flight group of collaborators here, Charles Burnham on violin, John Schott on guitar, her mentor, Myra Melford on ...

Radio & Podcasts

Sarah Wilson, Elliot Sharp, Elliot Sharp, Giovanni Guidi & Other New Releases

Read "Sarah Wilson, Elliot Sharp, Elliot Sharp, Giovanni Guidi & Other New Releases" reviewed by Ludovico Granvassu

We're back to our periodic perusal of the best new releases, from the groove of the Band of Other Brothers and the Bogie Band to the show-stopping electric blues of Elliot Sharp's Terraplane and the sheer beauty of the latest albums by Sarah Wilson and Hank Roberts.Happy listening!PlaylistBen Allison “Mondo Jazz Theme (feat. Ted Nash & Pyeng Threadgill)" 0:00 Band of Other Brothers “The Rabbit" Look Up! (Ear Up) 0:16 Host talks 5:08 The Bogie Band ...

Album Review

Sarah Wilson: Trapeze Project

Read "Trapeze Project" reviewed by Eyal Hareuveni

San Francisco-based trumpeter/vocalist Sarah Wilson is gifted with idiosyncratic and fresh composing skills that are so rare in jazz musicians who have gone through the formal avenues of jazz education. Her career began when she composed and played music for the Bread and Puppet Theater troupe; continued by studying with esteemed trumpeters John McNeil and Laurie Frink; absorbed the complex musical languages of Henry Threadgill and Steve Coleman; and gained experience in New York's flourishing Downtown scene. After her mother ...

Album Review

Sarah Wilson: Trapeze Project

Read "Trapeze Project" reviewed by Bruce Lindsay

Few contemporary jazz musicians can have paid their dues in the esoteric environment of a puppet theater, but for Sarah Wilson the Bread and Butter Puppet Theater proved to be an invaluable part of her musical education. Trapeze Project, the trumpeter's second album, is such an engaging and evocative recording that maybe more jazz players should spend their apprenticeships with puppets. Wilson's playing is considered and thoughtful. It may lack power at times, but this lends her ...

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“(Sarah Wilson’s music)...evocative, elegant and comfortably familiar all at once.” —Time Out New York

Sarah Wilson has emerged as "one of the most intriguing and promising composers and trumpeters on the contemporary music scene." —Derk Richardson, San Francisco Chronicle



Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson


Brass Tonic


Trapeze Project

Brass Tonic



From: Kaleidoscope
By Sarah Wilson


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