clifford_thornton

West Coast reedman Bert Wilson RIP

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According to facebook, the great reedman/saxophonist Bert Wilson died last night at his home in Olympia, WA. He had been wheelchair-bound from youth due to complications from polio, and was a fixture on the Bay Area and Pacific Northwest jazz scenes from the 1960s onward. He played with Sonny Simmons, Barbara Donald, Smiley Winters, Ed Kelly, James Zitro and many others, and released music on his own imprints Au Roar and Dr. Wheelz' Archives.

There's an illuminating interview here; he and I had communicated about doing an oral history but it never materialized due to time constraints on my side. Now he's gone and I am pretty bummed.

Rest in Peace, Bert, and thank you.

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An oral history would have been great.

The musical history, though, is most impressive.

RIP, and much thanks.

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A powerful player who managed to do a lot with the whole "post-Coltrane" thing (if there is such a thing.) And I always found his personal story particualrly meaningful, as my own father was confined to a wheelchair for virtual his entire life after contracting polio when he was a toddler. RIP, indeed.

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This is a terrible loss. Bert was an eccentric, both lovable and prickly. I interviewed him a few years ago for my radio show. He was a talented high-energy player who poured himself into his music. He was also highly opinionated and held a few grudges. He didn't gig much in recent years, but he hosted musical gatherings in his home in Olympia, WA.

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He played some rousing sax solos on some old free-jazz LPs from the SF Bay area - Smiley Etc. was one. It's good to see he stayed active since then. Thanks for passing along the bad news, Clifford.

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Somehow, he didn't hit my radar until but I came away liking Rebirth Live at the Zoo enough that I picked up Next Rebirth and Further Adventures (?). He was also on a track or few with Sonny Simmons (ESP). Later, I found he was on an LP from my old pal Smiley Winters. All good. RIP.

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That is extremely sad. Here's a player that deserved more accolades.

Memories of a long phone conversation with him back in 2005... discussing his music and Sonny Simmons' on ESP, quote: "Taking Coltrane's 'My Favorite Things' by the North Face"... "If I play the saxophone half an hour today, I know I'll be there tomorrow".

Fascinating character. I gathered his discography here: http://sonnysimmons.org/wilson.htm

Nancy, if you read this, my thoughts are with you.

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I first heard Bert on James Zitro' ESP record. I bought it in 1966 because my friend Allan Praskin played on it.

I took a lesson from Bert ~1974. He did not want to take any money but I pushed him to. After explaining that I took money for teaching he did accept the $20. We mostly discussed 'Miss Ann' as I remember. Sonny Simmons came by and always called Bert 'Wheels' :-)

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