Glenn Wilson

Glenn Wilson spent his college days as an alto saxophone major, but his career is tied to the baritone, for a simple reason. "I play the other saxophones," he says, "but not as a performer. On them, I just don't hear that definite Glenn Wilson sound."
The Youngstown, Ohio, native and Illinois resident will show off that sound Sunday at a concert in Oakland.

While the baritone has its own voice in the jazz world, Wilson, 49, takes it into a deeper and beefier nature than offered by many. He points to Gerry Mulligan, one of the aces of that instrument, as having the sound of a "slightly deeper tenor" player, a bit removed from Wilson's Pepper Adams-influenced approach.

He was an alto major at Youngstown State University. Baritone wasn't considered worthwhile, he says, so he had to do all his academic playing on the smaller horn.But in the jazz band there, he played baritone because he says he thought he had more personal sound with it.

That fueled a career for 14 years in New York City, playing in his own groups, the Buddy Rich Big Band and ensembles put together by arranger Bob Belden. It also kept him busy through stays in Richmond, Va., and now in Normal, Ill., where his wife, Janet, teaches acting at Illinois State University.

But Glenn Wilson also has a day job - after a fashion. He writes computer software and works as a consultant from his home. But the tight economy has cut into that work. "So, I'm letting my music support my computer work right now," he says with a laugh.

Music is his main job, after all. He's released seven albums as a leader and is on a number of others in his work with Rich, Belden, et al. It also provides tours such as the current one, in which he is doing 13 gigs in 12 days. Two of the stops are double-headers where he will perform twice daily in the same or nearby cities.

"Some of those are shorter jobs, so we won't being doing four-hour shows twice a day," he says. "But it will be good to be playing a lot. It will be fun and keep us sharp."

His work also developed a creative but mainstream approach to jazz that lets him give standards a fresh sound while also creating accessible originals. His quartet includes pianist Steve Kessler, bassist Jim Masters and drummer Tony Martucci, all Virginia and Maryland residents Wilson has been working with since his Richmond days in the '90s.

By Bob Karlovits
Thursday, October 16, 2003