Born: April 9, 1935 Primary Instrument: Organ, Hammond B3
In the late 60s, organist Reuben Wilson began ascending to his current status as a godfather of acid-jazz with On Broadway, the first in a string of albums for Blue Note Records. With these recordings Wilson revealed a command of funk that helped redefine the soul jazz movement created by the likes of Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and Richard Groove Holmes. l was impressed by the great players, Wilson said in an interview with Carlo Wolff for The Plain Dealer, But I thought the music could be well served by a pop feeling, I liked what drummers Bernard Purdie and ldris Muhammad were doing [Wilson has recorded with both drummers]. They were different from an Art Blakey or a Max Roach. Their appeal was to a younger crowd. While some collectors believe his best work is represented on his five Blue Note releases, Wilson also laid down some trailblazing sides for the Groove Merchant and Chess/Cadet labels. During the '80s, Got To Get Your Own, the title track to his 1974 Cadet album, caught on in dance clubs in England, I was in Europe with the Fatback Band, when I heard about it, recalls Wilson. All of a sudden, the news people from the trades and all were interviewing me separately from the Fatback Band. That's when l found out l had this big record. Got To Get Your Own, now an acid jazz classic, the song was reworked by Wilson for Organ Donor, his 1998 release for the Jazzateria label. Wilson's influence was still evident in the '90s thanks to such groups as US3 Tribe Called Quest and Nas sampling his compositions Ronnie's Bonnie and Were In Love, along with his arrangement of Inner City Blues, In 1995 Wilson toured Europe, Japan and North America as part of Guru's Jazzmatazz II, a crowd-pleasing all-star aggregation also featuring Kenny Garrett, Zachary Breaux and Donald Byrd.
Reuben Wilson, a former professional boxer who helped usher in a new musical era over 30 years ago, continues to have a profound influence on the modern music scene. Today, I'm playing to the children of my original audience, Wilson noted. I feel like l made a real contribution musically, and I feel very good about the fact that it's actually given me legend status in Europe. In 1997, Wilson received his first gold disc for his compositions on the US3 recording Hand On The Torch. That same year he collaborated with Dr. Lonnie Smith on the Hip Bop Organic Grooves II LP and Blue Note reissued two of his albums: Love Bug (1969), with trumpeter Lee Morgan, tenor saxophonist George Coleman, guitarist Grant Green and drummer ldris Muhammad (then known as Leo Morris); and Blue Mode (1969) with tenor saxophonist John Manning, guitarist Melvin Sparks and drummer Tommy Derrick. Born April 9, 1935 in Mounds, Oklahoma, at age five Wilson moved with his family to Pasadena, California, where his schoolmates included bassist Herb Lewis and vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson. He started playing professionally in Los Angeles, and in the mid 60s went to New York and worked with a range of artists from Sam Rivers to Grant Green, Roy Haynes to Willis Gatortail Jackson. Also after arriving in New York, Wilson formed a trio called the Wildare Express with Tommy Derrick, the drummer who would appear on the organist's Blue Note debut. Wilson still resides in New York, still actively tours, and sounds better than ever.