Sunday, May 19, 2013

Phil Wilson


            In the category of Famous Trombone Players I've Had On Speed Dial, there's only one member. My gig with the ITA, writing about the folks to whom they've given awards, sometimes means that I get to spend time talking to some of the world's best musicians. This can be a bit intimidating for me, especially in the case of someone like Phil Wilson.
            When I write these Journal pieces, I usually start by sending emails and sometimes the subjects will send me their numbers and suggest a phone call. On the day I called Phil, for some reason he asked to call back and when he did, my phone captured the caller ID. We talked for over an our and he turned out to be such a nice guy that what I had planned as kind of interview ended up being a really loose bull session.  Most trombone players, even great ones are really just regular, unpretentious kinds of people.  Fortunately, I had a recorder going so got all I needed for the article and after it was all over, I saved Phil's number to my phone. Anytime another musician came to the house I'd casually say something like, "Hey, know anyone with Phil Wilson on speed dial?" Unfortunately, that phone didn't make the trip over here.
            When I got into big band jazz in high school, my favorites were (and still are) Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Woody Herman so it's probably no coincidence that a lot of my favorite trombone players came from "The Herd."  Phil Wilson made a name for himself with Woody Herman's band during the time I was starting to pay attention to those things so I've know about him for a long time. However, I hadn't really heard much of his playing until sometime in the '90's, when rescuing my sanity included relearning the trombone. Getting back into the horn led to a quest to buy as many recordings of jazz trombonists as I could find and one of these feeding frenzy CD's contains the tune I'm featuring here. It comes from an album Phil recorded in 1995 with pianist Paul Schmeling, a fellow Berklee professor.
            AC-CENT-TCHU-ATE The Positive is 17 tracks of Phil's trombone accompanied only by piano.  This tune, One For My Baby, is one of those songs that make me wish I could sing and this recording is my favorite version, for obvious reasons. A few of the albums I own have trombonists playing duets with other instruments, in fact the first one of these hero posts was trombone and guitar. J. J. Johnson's recorded duets on a few of his albums and Urbie Green has, too. This is the only one I have, though, that is completely trombone and one other. The liner notes say the recording was the result of Phil and Paul admiration each other and having worked together at Berklee for over 30 years. I think it could just be that rhythm section folks like trombone players.

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