09.02. – Happy Birthday !!! Steve Wilson has attained ubiquitous status in the studio and on the stage with the greatest names in jazz, as well as critical acclaim as a bandleader in his own right. A musician’s musician, Wilson has brought his distinctive sound to more than 150 recordings led by such celebrated and wide-ranging artists as Chick Corea, George Duke, Michael Brecker, Dave Holland, Dianne Reeves, Bill Bruford, Gerald Wilson, Maria Schneider, Joe Henderson, Charlie Byrd, Billy Childs, Karrin Allyson, Don Byron, and Mulgrew Miller among many others. He has eight recordings as a leader.
Starting his formal training on saxophone in his native Hampton, Virginia, Wilson also played oboe and drums in school bands while performing in various R&B/funk bands throughout his teens. After a year-long stint with singer Stephanie Mills he majored in music at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, where he performed and/or studied with Jimmy and Percy Heath, Jon Hendricks, Jaki Byard, John Hicks, Frank Foster and Ellis Marsalis. During those years he was also in constant demand for recording studio work, and as backing musician for touring shows such as The Four Tops and Sophisticated Ladies. Landing a chair with O.T.B (Out of the Blue), a sextet of promising young players recording on Blue Note Records, Wilson moved to New York in 1987 and the following year toured the U.S. and Europe with Lionel Hampton.
Becoming a first-call choice for veteran and emerging artists alike, Wilson was the subject of a New York Timesprofile “A Sideman’s Life”, highlighting his work with Ralph Peterson, Jr., Michele Rosewoman, Renee Rosnes, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, Joanne Brackeen, The American Jazz Orchestra, The Mingus Big Band, The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, and Buster Williams’ Quintet “Something More”. In 1996 he joined the acclaimed Dave Holland Quintet, and from 1998-2001 he was a member of Chick Corea’s Grammy winning sextet “Origin”. Wilson documented his first four recordings as a leader on the Criss Cross label – New York Summit, Step Lively, Blues for Marcus and Four For Time. He then recorded two projects for Chick Corea’s Stretch Records label – Generations, and Passages. In 2003 Wilson’s recording Soulful Song was released on MAX JAZZ launching the label’s Horn Series.
In 2009 Wilson was a member of the Blue Note 7, an all-star septet assembled to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Blue Note Records. The project culminated in a 50-city tour of the U.S. and their recording Mosaic. Also in that year Wilson made his orchestral debut performing Heitor Villa Lobos’ Fantasia for Soprano Saxophone and Chamber Orchestra with the Vermont Mozart Festival Orchestra. By popular demand he returned to the VMF in 2010 performing a commissioned work Sweet For Duke (for Saxophone & Chamber Orchestra) by Jonathan Ragonese.
In February 2011 Wilson celebrated his 50th birthday with a six-night engagement leading six different bands at Jazz Standard, NYC’s premiere jazz club. The all-star line-up included Mulgrew Miller, Bruce Barth, Karrin Allyson, Lewis Nash, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Carla Cook, Geoffrey Keezer, Christian McBride, Linda Oh, Ed Howard, Adam Cruz, Diane Monroe, Joyce Hammann, Nardo Poy and Troy Stuart. In a major interview feature preview, the Wall Street Journal proclaimed, “The Sideman Becomes the Star.” The WSJ article by award-winning journalist Larry Blumenfeld added, “Mr. Wilson is essential to this city’s jazz landscape.” Since the 1990’s Wilson has been regularly cited in the Downbeat Magazine Critics and Readers’ Polls in the soprano and alto saxophone categories. The Jazz Journalists Association as Best Alto Sax Player nominated him in 2008, and for Best Soprano Sax Player 2010. His work in film has included being artistic consultant to Harvey Keitel for “Lulu On The Bridge” as well as being featured on the soundtrack.
An in-demand and passionate educator Wilson is an Associate Professor at City College of New York, and on faculty at the Juilliard School. He has been artist-in-residence and/or visiting artist at University of Michigan, University of Oregon, University of Maryland-College Park, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Delaware, Lemoyn College, North Carolina Central University, Bowling Green University, Lafayette College, University of Northern Colorado, SUNY New Paltz, Florida State University, California State University at Stanislaus, University of Manitoba, Hamilton College, Old Dominion University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and for the award winning arts organization CITYFOLK in Dayton, Ohio. With the support of friend and mentor Dr. Billy Taylor, Wilson has been a frequent guest performer/educator at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. He has been a featured performer, panelist, and clinician at conferences of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, Chamber Music of America, and International Association of Jazz Educators. Wilson has been honored by New York University and The Richmond (VA) Jazz Society recognizing his outstanding service in jazz education. He is an active mentor in the nurturing and promotion of his former students’ emerging careers who have performed with The Count Basie Orchestra, Johnny Mandel, Beyonce Knowles, Roy Hargrove, and many others.
In March 2015 Wilson released his first live recording Wilsonian’s Grain Live In New York: The Vanguard Sessions. This dynamic quartet features Bill Stewart, Orrin Evan, and Ugonna Okegwo, and proclaimed as “… jazz at its finest – in conception, execution and spontaneity” by WBGO Radio. Wilson is one-half of a formidable duo with renowned drummer Lewis Nash as heard on their celebrated recording Dulogue, and he co-leads an elegant trio with pianist Renee Rosnes and bassist Peter Washington. Wilson also performs with several Grammy-winning ensemble: Maria Schneider Orchestra, Christian McBride Big Band, Billy Childs Quartet, Ron Carter Big Band, and the Buster Williams Quartet.