Bert Wilson- Wheels of Fire

Bert Wilson is an amazing and truly unique saxophonist who has spent most of adult life in a wheelchair, hence his nickname 'Wheels'. I don't think I've ever met anyone as devoted to Jazz as Bert. He lives to play and plays to live, literally. Bert needs to play his horns so that his breathing remains strong, due to his life threatening spinal condition. Bert is a Free-bopper, if you can even categorize his unique style. He is a devoted worshipper of Bird, Trane, and Dolphy. He has an amazing knowledge of the history of Jazz and a record collection to match. He plays the entire history of Jazz.

I had the pleasure of playing with Wheels a few years ago when James Zitro, a drummer I used to play with, came up from California to record with Bert. They did a record for the ESP lable in the 60s that's recently been re-released on the Fantasy label. Playing with Bert made me reconsider my own playing. He made me feel like an old white caucasion. :-) I felt so square and inside compared to his free-wheeling (excuse the pun) style.

Wheels sounds like his horn is about to explode every time he plays. He is always on fire. He doesn't get out much so all the players come to him. His pad is a Jazz oasis in the North West. He's always up for playing, listening or just talking about music and players are dropping by all day long to hang.

I filmed a master class that he taught and am planning to post some clips of it soon. Bert is the king of extended technique. He has mastered the altissimo stratosphere and knows just about every multi-phonic on the saxophone that is possible. He's not shy about using them either. I love the way he mixes straight-ahead Bebop with freaky Avant-Garde. Burn it up Bert!

The Bert Wilson story

Tenor madness- the inspired music of Bert Wilson

1 comment:

Damian Erskine said...

ok... I just posted a similar comment on an old post of yours for Francisco Mela and a gig in Boston, BUT... I also had the pleasure of playing with Bert my first time to the NW. I was on tour with Joel Harrison, Paul Hanson (jazz Bassoonist... KILLER player) and Russ Gold and we did a tribute show to Jim Pepper in Olympia and Bert sat in. Very interesting player..
Come to think of it. We also played in Portland on that tour at the Blue Note (before it closed) and Rob Schepps sat in with us there. It was to be the only time I've gotten to play with him or even hear him play and I was totally blown away! And then of course, equally blown away by his personality as we all hung out after the gig.. :-0

Love the blog David.. totally hooked (just found it).
Hope to play with you again sometime soon!