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Steve Wilson: The Wilsonian Institute

The consummate saxophonist-composer talks about his new live album and much more

Steve Wilson
Wilsonian's Grain (l. to r.): Wilson, Bill Stewart, Ugonna Okegwa & Orrin Evans, at the Village Vanguard, 2014
Steve Wilson with the Gil Evans Project
Steve Wilson (right) solos in the Ryan Truesdell-led Gil Evans Project, NYC's Jazz Standard, 2011 (photo: Zak Shelby-Szyszko)
Steve Wilson (left) and Lewis Nash
Steve Wilson (left) and Bruce Barth (Photo courtesy of "We Always Swing" Jazz Series)

Steve Wilson, one of the finest alto and soprano saxophonists of our time, might not ordinarily ponder his earliest days as a full-time musician. But the details are particularly clear in his mind as we settle in for lunch at Henry’s, on West 105th Street and Broadway in New York. This is where the “new” Birdland stood before moving to its current home on West 44th Street.

“One of the first times I played in New York was here [at Birdland] with Jaki Byard,” Wilson recounts, fixing the year as 1987. “[Byard] had come to [Virginia Commonwealth University] as an artist-in-residence, and he told me to look him up when I came to New York. When I did, he said, ‘Yeah, come by Birdland and play.’ It was right over there.” Wilson motions behind us. We attend to our niçoise salads, the vanished bandstand 20 feet away.

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