Next Friday, baritone saxophonist Glenn Wilson will be making his return back to Richmond with a performance at The Camel. His band will consist of regular collaborators guitarist Rory Stuart, bassist Jimmy Masters, and drummer Tony Martucci. In his own words, he discusses the origin of his group, The Jazzmaniacs, in Richmond and his musical career that has taken place here.
Next Friday, baritone saxophonist Glenn Wilson will be making his return back to Richmond with a performance at The Camel. The former Richmonder and current teacher at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been performing professionally for over 30 years, and his career includes releases on Cadence and Sunnyside records and an impressive list of experiences like playing with The Buddy Rich Band, Lionel Hampton Orchestra, Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra, and Tito Puente.
His band at The Camel will consist of regular collaborators guitarist Rory Stuart, bassist Jimmy Masters, and drummer Tony Martucci. In his own words, he discusses the origin of his group, The Jazzmaniacs, in Richmond and his musical career that has taken place here.
In 1991, pianist Steve Kessler and I started a group which we were just calling The Steve Kessler Quartet. We had a few gigs around town: a place called Avalon on Main and a couple of other short gigs when we hooked up with Bogart’s. We played there a few weekends when we decided to change the name to The Jazzmaniacs. We wanted something which told folks what kind of music we played, but we also wanted to warn them that we were maniacs. Our motto was “Don’t make us prove it”.
We played at Bogart’s for two years, pretty much every Friday and Saturday, then we went to one weekend night for about five more years. After that Steve moved to Baltimore, so we cut down to two times a month for the next couple of years. Altogether, we played there nine years. It’s definitely the longest gig I ever had in one place. It was great, because there were no limits on the music and we could really stretch out.
So when we decided to record, we wanted to do it live at Bogart’s over three nights. There are a ton of great stories about the recording weekend, which I can’t go into now, including the manager having a nervous breakdown on the last night of the recording and chasing a waitress through the restaurant, past our line of people waiting to get in, waiving a meat cleaver and swearing profusely. The CD, One Man’s Blues, is on Sunnyside and really represents what we were doing there all those years — without the loud talking, cigar smoke, and occasional indifference which accompanied us on a usual gig there. Steve and I were the mainstays and we had many bassists and drummers over the years, including Clarence Penn, Alvester Garnett, Elias Bailey, etc. but eventually drummer Tony Martucci and Jim Masters on bass joined us, which was the group for the last few years. We’ve continued to play together in the years since I left Richmond in 2001 and hopefully will continue to do so.
Tony and Jimmy will be on the gig on October 30, which will also include New York guitarist Rory Stuart. Rory and I go way back to the mid ’80s when we both had recordings on Cadence and Sunnyside. We were teamed up by Bob Rusch, who runs Cadence records to do a tour of the midwest and we’ve been playing together ever since. We recorded our duo CD, Bittersweet, in 1991. At the time, and possibly still, it’s the only recording of a duo with guitar and baritone sax. It was highly received and reviewed and has led to many gigs together as a duo. We really enjoy playing in that setting and it makes travel and gig situations pretty easy. Rory is also on my quintet CD, Blue Porpoise Avenue, on Sunnyside. I’ve recorded more with Rory than anyone else and, outside of Steve Kessler, have probably played more gigs with Rory than anyone. Rory is a prolific composer and we will be doing a lot of Rory’s original music on this gig/tour, which starts at Blues Alley in DC on October 28.
Tony Martucci is one of the most original drummers I’ve had the pleasure of working with. You never know where he’s going with the tune and he was a major contributor to the group’s sound over the years. I’ve got some live recordings at clubs and concerts over the years that are frightening in their intensity and energy, mostly due to Tony’s drumming. Someday I’ll make them available on my website.
Jim Masters lays down a solid groove and has great time so it’s always a pleasure to work with Jim. It’s been a while since we worked together, so it will be a treat to hear him and see him again. Sparks will fly!
RVAJazz presents Glenn Wilson Quartet at The Camel on Friday, October 30, at 8pm. $5, all ages. The Camel is located at 1621 W. Broad St., Richmond, VA. View more event details.