Steve Wilson & Wilsonian's Grain: Live At The Village Vanguard He's been a "first-call" saxophonist in New York City for more than two decades. But this week, he's the one doing the calling. Wilson and his new quartet of old friends set up shop at the Vanguard.

Steve Wilson. John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com hide caption

toggle caption
John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com

Steve Wilson.

John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com

Live At The Village Vanguard

Steve Wilson & Wilsonian's GrainWBGO

Steve Wilson Quartet In Concert At The Village Vanguard - 03/24/2010

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/125076907/125169652" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

For many years, Steve Wilson has made a living as a "first-call" alto and soprano saxophonist. That is, he's a first-choice musician for tons of acclaimed bandleaders: Christian McBride, Maria Schneider, Dave Holland, Mulgrew Miller, Chick Corea, Buster Williams and so forth. He spent much of last year with the 70th-anniversary Blue Note Records band, and even took a few gigs with classical-music ensembles presenting works for strings and saxophone.

Of course, being called so often leaves little time to call others for your own projects. That was thankfully untrue when Wilson played a week at New York's Village Vanguard with his newest quartet, itself composed of first-call musicians. NPR Music and WBGO presented and archived a live video webcast and on-air broadcast of Wilsonian's Grain live from the Village Vanguard during the group's Wednesday night early set.

It's hard to describe Steve Wilson's style; he's made his career on being a complete musician, technically and imaginatively. (In order to fit into so many bands, he plays alto sax, soprano sax, multiple flutes and a clarinet.) More accurate would be to say that he's a musician of honesty within the vast field of mainstream post-bop, but never constrained by its parameters. With him were a group of old friends who are also on many a musician's speed-dial: pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Bill Stewart.

In a set alternately swung hard and delicately shaped, Wilson called a generous helping of standards. None of them strayed far from the melody, but all of them were tastefully put. Of the originals his group played, bassist Okegwo contributed the highlight, with a beautiful slow chart called "For You."

Wilson arrived in New York in 1987; the next year, he was already on the road with Lionel Hampton. The city's top musicians quickly learned of his talents, and he now appears on more than 100 commercial recordings. Since 1991, he's also found time to record seven albums of his own. Wilsonian's Grain remains undocumented on disc, though not on tape; in addition to this live recording, its October 2008 debut gig was recorded for air on NPR's JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater.

It had been less than a year since Wilson last led a group at the Village Vanguard: an entirely different quartet co-led by pianist Michael Wolff, Chip Jackson and Victor Lewis. He also visited the club with Christian McBride's Inside Straight last fall — NPR Music and WBGO recorded that show, as well. In other words, he's no stranger to the place, no matter who calls whom for the gig.

Set List

  • "All The Things You Are" (Kern)
  • "Input" (Wilson)
  • "For You" (Okegwo)
  • "Chelsea Bridge" (Strayhorn)
  • "Strike Up The Band" (Gershwin)
  • "Q-B-Rab" [Theme] (Wilson)

Personnel

  • Steve Wilson, alto and soprano saxophones
  • Orrin Evans, piano
  • Ugonna Okegwo, bass
  • Bill Stewart, drums

Credits

  • Josh Jackson, producer and host
  • David Tallacksen, mix engineer
  • Josh Webb, recording assistant
[+] read more[-] less

More From Jazz

American jazz trumpeter Harry 'Sweets' Edison performs in 1991. David Redfern/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption David Redfern/Getty Images

Harry 'Sweets' Edison On Piano Jazz

On this episode of Piano Jazz from 1999, broadcast just months before Edison died, the legendary jazz trumpeter joins Marian McPartland for a few classics and an original.

Harry 'Sweets' Edison On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/612283249/612285662" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
George Kopp/Courtesy of the artist

Virginia Mayhew On Piano Jazz

Saxophonist, composer and bandleader Virginia Mayhew joins forces with Marian McPartland to perform "All the Things You Are" and "Body and Soul" on this 1998 episode of Piano Jazz.

Virginia Mayhew On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/610083723/610086310" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Joanne Brackeen and Jason Moran at NPR's Studio One in Washington, D.C. Eric Lee/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Eric Lee/NPR

Jazz Giants Take The Stage At The NEA Jazz Masters Listening Party

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Jason Moran sat down with the NEA Jazz Masters to talk about their careers and listen to music that played important roles in their lives.

Jazz Giants Take The Stage At The NEA Jazz Masters Listening Party

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/608093895/608239849" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

This 1988 episode of Piano Jazz features Brazilian pianist, composer, and vocalist Eliane Elias. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Eliane Elias On Piano Jazz

Brazilian pianist, composer, and vocalist Eliane Elias is a renowned artist in her home country and in the American jazz scene. Hear her first Piano Jazz performance from 1988.

Eliane Elias On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/607421826/607450646" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Willie Pickens On Piano Jazz

Chicago jazz mainstay Willie Pickens died this past December at age 86. Revisit his performance with McPartland in this 1997 episode of Piano Jazz.

Willie Pickens On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/604342537/604343909" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Cleo Brown on the cover of Here Comes Cleo. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Cleo Brown On Piano Jazz

Cleo Brown makes a rare appearance to perform her greatest hit, "Pinetop's Boogie-Woogie," and to recall the style's heyday in the 1930s.

Cleo Brown On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/602133644/602133663" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

The 2018 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Dianne Reeves, Pat Metheny, Joanne Brackeen and Todd Barkan are recipients of the 2018 Jazz Masters award — the highest honor the U.S. gives to a jazz musician or advocate.

Gus Bennett, Jr./Courtesy of the artist

Nicholas Payton On Piano Jazz

The trumpet prodigy learned how to improv from fellow New Orleans native Wynton Marsalis. Payton was only in his 20s when he visited with McPartland for this 1998 episode.

Nicholas Payton On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/598825823/600192516" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Cecil Taylor performs at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall in 2002. Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images

Cecil Taylor On Piano Jazz

Cecil Taylor encompasses a never-ending range of sound and emotion. Hear an archival session with Marian McPartland from 1994.

Cecil Taylor On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/600173531/600190821" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Back To Top