Music is something that should make you feel good. It has the power to transform one’s mood from gloomy to feelings of jubilation. Music always has been for me an outlet to express what I couldn’t sometimes say with words. Music has been a means to scream when I couldn’t, to laugh out-loud, and to cry without anyone knowing my pain.
I started out as a youngster playing the trumpet and performing in the school choir. I wasn’t a very good trumpet player and surely not a talented vocalist. Yet, that didn’t stop me from enjoying the thrill of
performing. In the final weeks of 8th grade at Washington Polytechnic Academy something happened that almost never happens at a public school, two new instruments arrived. One was an alto saxophone and the other? You guessed it a tenor saxophone. The alto did nothing for me but that tenor? Well, it was almost as big as me—a then 6’0” awkward 13-year-old.
I begged my teacher, Mr. Wingfield, the rest of the year to let me take it home for the summer. After much pestering, he agreed. When I played that tenor, something happened that had never before when it came to me and music. We connected and I sounded good! My passion came to life as forgotten memories of hearing the saxophone resurfaced. It became impossible for me to watch TV or a movie without hearing that haunting sound of a saxophone. That summer I took lessons at the neighborhood youth center, Bidwell, and studied under talented pianist, Dr. Leonard Johnson, (who would later join my band). The summer ended and off I went to high school (Schenley High). There I met a friend and brother, Mr. Todd Preston. He doubled as my band teacher by day and professional saxophonist by night. The next 2 years we spent what seemed like every waking moment together.
Mr. Preston let me play with his band at The Historic Balcony in Shadyside. I fondly remember warming up on the back steps of the Balcony then coming on stage and joining such Pittsburgh “greats” as Don Aliquo Jr., Eric DeFade, Dave Budway and many more. Mr. Preston turned me on to discount record stores like Jerry’s in Oakland where I bought my first Jazz record, Countdown by John Coltrane. I thought to myself, “what is this crap he has me listening to?” Little did I know then what I fully appreciate now that John Coltrane was one of the most influential and talented saxophonist of all time.
Mr. Preston had me go to jam sessions to “hone in” on my craft. The jam session that stands out like no other is Jazz at The Hill House (JAHH). That’s where I met Mr. Horace Turner. Every Sunday my dad would pick me up, and we would spend the day together at JAHH. I learned a lot of songs and endured many rebukes from the “older cats.” Especially, Mr. Turner who would “kick me off stage,” claiming my solos were too long, and that I needed to go to the “woodshed” and practice. I would get upset, but my dad would calm me down. I wouldn’t come back for a few weeks till I practiced heavily to show Mr. Turner that I could make the grade and was no quitter. Eventually I realized, he was only trying to help. Boy was it ever good to sit with some of the “greats” of Pittsburgh, the “old cats,” and the up and coming “young lions.”
After high school, I continued lessons with Mr. Preston and later trained under Don Aliquo Sr., Don Aliquo Jr., Jay Willis and whomever else I could “steal a lick” from. I shaped my style after John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Stanley Turntine (a Pittsburgher and one of the few Jazz legends I actually got to see live.), Grover Washington Jr., Michael Brecker, and Bob Mintzer.
About The Band:
Jared Wilson & The Vibe began some 11 years ago at a fitness club in downtown Pittsburgh called The City Club now Bally Total Fitness. My mother was a member and suggested I get a band together to try to play for one of their member appreciation parties. We ended up getting booked. My mother would later become one of the biggest promoters of the band. The band refuses to be labeled as a quartet. “The Vibe” is much more fitting than “the Jared Wilson Quartet” because on any given night the band could range from a duo to a quintet. You could see on stage a Piano, Bass, Drums and Saxophone. Or it could be an Organ band with B3, Guitarist, Drummer and Saxophonist. Or any other possible combination you can think of. “The vibe” of the evening and/or the event determines the band composition. It is also of note that there is no “s” on Vibe. No matter what pieces make up the band for the evening we work to create one harmonious “vibe” not individual vibes. The Vibe that permeates every evening is that we want you to walk away feeling good.