Unlike most musicians, Eric Wyatt was born into the jazz life. The tenorman’s father, the late Charles Wyatt, was also a tenor player, and Eric grew up around Charles’ friends, a who’s who of the music’s history. There was the time Wilbur Ware came by their Brooklyn home at 3 a.m., looking for a place to crash. And the instance when Eric was able to start taking lessons at Brooklyn’s New Muse Community Center, even though he had missed the deadline for enrollment; Charles was acquainted with the person in charge, Reggie Workman. And, of course, there was Charles’ deep friendship with Sonny Rollins, who was “like an uncle,” Eric says.
“And I never forgot him coming [over] because he brought this big crate of fruit, cherries. Big crate,” remembers Wyatt, 57, at a Burger King near his current home in Flatbush, Brooklyn. “I have two brothers and two sisters, so it was like when this guy came over and brought all these cherries, we could eat as much as we want. … We thought he was cool.”