Jack Wilson was a talented, if understated, mainstream jazz pianist. Wilson's music had elements of hard bop, swing, cool jazz and soul-jazz, and it was all tied together by his tasteful playing.
Wilson was born in Chicago, but his family moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana whe he was seven years old. Two years later, Wilson began to learn piano. Between 1949 and 1954, he studied with Carl Atkinson at the Fort Wayne College of Music. During that time, he became infatuated with the George Shearing Quintet. He picked up the baritone saxophone, which he played in the high school band, and then began playing locally with a small combo he led. Just before his fifteenth birthday, he became the youngest member of the Fort Wayne Musicians Union. When he was 17, he played as a substitute in James Moody's band for a couple of weeks. Following his high school graduation, he attended the University of Indiana for a year and a half. At the school, he met Freddie Hubbard, Slide Hampton, Dave Baker and Jerry Coker. Once he left college, he moved to Columbus, Ohio, where he worked with local musicians, including Nancy Wilson and Roland Kirk. After spending a year in Columbus, he moved to Atlantic City, where he led the house band at the Cotton Club. Dinah Washington passed through the club while Wilson worked there and invited him to join her band. He accepted the offer and spent a year performing with her, eventually moving to Chicago in 1958. A year later, he made his recording debut as a sideman for bassist Richard Davis. The same day he cut his first session, he was drafted into the Army. In the service, Wilson became the music director for the Third Army Area and played tenor saxophone in the Army band. Upon his discharge in 1961, he returned to Washington's band. After spending another year in her band, Wilson decided to settle in Hollywood, where he kept busy, playing with combos, supporting a number of singers — including Julie London, Sammy Davis Jr., Sarah Vaughan, Eartha Kitt and Sonny & Cher — and working on film and telvision soundtracks, both as a sideman (playing both piano and organ) and composer.
In 1963, Wilson recorded his first session as a leader, The Jack Wilson Quartet, which was released on Atlantic. It was followed in 1964 by Two Sides. After cutting Brazilian Mancini for Vault in 1965, he moved to Blue Note in 1966, recording Something Personal in August of that year. It was the first of three albums for Blue Note — Easterly Winds followed in 1967, Song for My Daughter in 1968. After the release of Song for My Daughter, Wilson remained quiet for nearly ten years, apart from the occasional date supporting Esther Phillips. In the late '70s, he returned to action as a sideman and leader, recording four albums — Innovations, Autumn Sunset, Margo's Theme, Corcovado — for Discovery. He continued to gig as a sideman into the early '80s, playing with the likes of Lorez Alexandria, Tutti Camarata and Eddie Harris, before quietly disappearing from active duty again.
- by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
All Music Group