Guitarist and L.A. native Anthony Wilson has been a part of the jazz scene since his birth. His 93-year-old father, bandleader/raconteur/legend Gerald Wilson, started swinging before World War II and hasn't stopped, but the younger Wilson grew up in a musical landscape as indebted to Peter Frampton as Lionel Hampton. So it should come as no surprise that every Wednesday in April, Wilson will be leading four disparate bands at the Blue Whale, ranging in influence from Tin Pan Alley to the Traveling Wilburys.
“Something in the discourse of our music creates all these different camps,” says Wilson, digging into lunch at downtown's Daily Dose. “I don't really like that. One thing that bothers me in jazz, or whatever we want to call it, is that some people think certain styles are nostalgia. But nothing is more forward- or backward-looking than the other. It's all happening now.”
Over the course of his four shows Wilson aims to not only display his breadth of influence but also kick to the side the expectations of a modern jazz artist. Thus he has enlisted a different group for each night, including straight-ahead masters John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton, rock icon Jim Keltner, a horn-laden nonet and a guitar quartet.
In 2011, aside from contributing to his father's Grammy-nominated big-band release, Legacy, Wilson self-released two albums of his own — Campo Belo, an album of originals recorded in São Paulo, and Seasons, a suite he wrote for a guitar exhibit at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“[Luthier] John Monteleone was one of the featured craftsmen in the exhibit. I was driving him around one day and he asked me if I wanted to write something for these guitars he was making. He made four guitars in his shop in Long Island and I would go out there, play and get the feel for them. I kept putting it off until finally I just had to write it.”
The result was Seasons, which premiered last April. “It was surreal,” Wilson says of the experience. The suite, played entirely on Monteleone's intricately crafted acoustic guitars, dips into jazz, flamenco and baroque harmonies. It's a delicate weave of 24 strings, which highlights Wilson's compositional and arranging skills.
Not only did Wilson get to premiere his work at one of the most prestigious museums in the country, he also was immortalized with a poster of his likeness looming over the exhibit alongside guitar heavyweights like Les Paul and Jimmy Page. “They sent me the poster after the exhibit was over,” he recalls. “It's sitting in my apartment.”
Not only can he claim to be one of L.A. jazz's best ambassadors, but he also has every right to be called a “guitar pinup.” Maybe he'll hang it at the Blue Whale.
Anthony Wilson's month-long Wednesday night residency at the Blue Whale begins tomorrow.