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  • Bert is a living miracle with his music playing sax, composing and teaching. Bert is one of the best reasons to live in Olympia WA for anyone that loves Jazz and would like to know a true "outsider" that is a real live monsters in the jazz world - and a man who has lived in a wheelchair since age 4. A full bio is available at All About Jazz of Bert. He was born in Evansville, IN in 1939, and at the age of 4, contracted polio. In his own words ...

    "I've been in a wheelchair ever since. The chair doesn't define me, but it has affected my life (and certainly my access to those basement jazz clubs). I got into jazz while living in a hospital school in Chicago, where one of the other kids turned me on to Charlie Parker at the age of 10. THAT affected my life far more than the polio did!

    "Upon graduating from high school, I moved to L.A. and became a part of the fringe jazz scene there (in the early-to-mid '60s). By this time, I could play a bunch of “Bird's” music in 12 keys, but Ornette Coleman and 'Trane had gone off into a more modal free space and that's what all my friends wanted to play.

    " Went to New York in 1966, and lived on the lower east side on the 6th floor of a building with no elevator(!), so I didn't get out much, but recorded a couple of albums with ESP, one with Sonny Simmons,(Music of the Spheres) and one with the drummer James Zitro (Listen). I hung out in my 6th floor apartment with saxophonist Jim Pepper, where we would play multiphonics at each other for hours (driving the neighbors crazy, no doubt).

    Returned to California after a couple of years, this time to Berkeley, where I hooked up with the drummer Smiley Winters and recorded a couple of albums with him on Arhoolie. I also continued playing with Zitro, who returned to California also (by way of Spain), and we attempted to survive the “dry years” of jazz by forming a fusion group, “The Zytron Aquarian Ensemble”.

    I tried New York again in the mid-'70s, but was determined not to live in a walk-up, therefore, I was stuck outside the city...Meanwhile, a couple of my acquaintances from Berkeley had moved to Olympia, Washington, formed a band and seeing my stuck situation in NY, held benefits to bring me to Olympia, where I've been since 1980."

    In a review of Bert's 2005 Album "Wheels of Fire" Casa Valdex said, " Bert Wilson is an amazing and truly unique saxophonist who has spent most of life in a wheelchair, hence his nickname 'Wheels'. I don't think I've ever met anyone as devoted to Jazz as Bert. He lives to play and plays to live, literally. Bert needs to play his horns so that his breathing remains strong, due to his life threatening spinal condition. Bert is a Free-bopper, if you can even categorize his unique style. He is a devoted worshipper of Bird, Trane, and Dolphy. He has an amazing knowledge of the history of Jazz and a record collection to match. He plays the entire history of Jazz."

    " I had the pleasure of playing with Wheels a few years ago when James Zitro, a drummer I used to play with, came up from California to record with Bert. They did a record for the ESP lable in the 60s that's recently been re-released on the Fantasy label. Playing with Bert made me reconsider my own playing. He made me feel like an old white caucasion. :-) I felt so square and inside compared to his free-wheeling (excuse the pun) style."

    "Wheels sounds like his horn is about to explode every time he plays. He is always on fire. He doesn't get out much so all the players come to him. His pad is a Jazz oasis in the North West. He's always up for playing, listening or just talking about music and players are dropping by all day long to hang."

    "I filmed a master class that he taught and am planning to post some clips of it soon. Bert is the king of extended technique. He has mastered the altissimo stratosphere and knows just about every multi-phonic on the saxophone that is possible. He's not shy about using them either. I love the way he mixes straight-ahead Bebop with freaky Avant-Garde. Burn it up Bert!"

    If you love and or create jazz your are a outsider to many that really don't get it ... enjoy the tunes, I sure do!

    Bert and Rebirth

    Bert plays Karmic Reflections

    Bert and BeBop Revisited

    Great Interview with Bert
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