Jim Wilson


When he was seven, he picked up a guitar at a friend's house and the older man gave it to Jim. "From then on I had this incredible passion for music and learning to play it," he remembers. "I started learning some James Taylor riffs. That style has stayed with me even after I switched to piano playing when I was 19. "
Melodic acoustic pianist Jim Wilson, whose first recording climbed high on Billboard magazine's national Top New Age Albums chart, is back with Cape Of Good Hope which will be augmented with a national PBS-TV special.

Wilson is joined on the mostly-instrumental album by a bevy of top musicians, special guests, close friends and recording artists in their own right including singer-guitarist Dan Fogelberg, singer Stephen Bishop, guitarist Davey Johnstone (Elton John), guitarist Steve Lukather (Toto, Boz Scaggs), bassist Lee Sklar (James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Carole King), keyboardist Steve Porcaro (Toto, Boz Scaggs), jazz saxophonists David Sanborn and Richard Elliot, guitarist Peter White (Al Stewart), jazzster Rick Braun producing one track and playing percussion (riding the charts this year with his own #1 jazz album), jazz stalwart percussionist Lenny Castro, trumpet player and Columbia recording artist Chris Botti (Sting), Irish flutist and Uilleann pipes player Eric Rigler (the Titantic film soundtrack), and numerous others.

Wilson's first album, Northern Seascape (he co-wrote the title tune with Fogelberg), was released on Angel-EMI Records because it bridged the gap between jazz, new age and contemporary classical music with hints of Celtic, folk and pop incorporated into the mix. It quickly became a chart-climber and best-seller. Now Jim continues to expand his ambitious eclectic musical blend on Cape Of Good Hope, this time released on the quickly burgeoning Hillsboro label (distributed by EMI).

The new album will be presented visually to America in the fall of 2001 via an hour-long national television special, Jim Wilson & Friends: Cape of Good Hope (and Other Musical Portraits), filmed in Amarillo, Texas, when Jim returned to his hometown to explore his roots and perform a special concert in the city's historic downtown district. The TV show features musical performances, interviews with Jim and his band, and "video art" sequences usually projected on-stage during his concerts.

Although the public knows Jim Wilson as a rapidly-emerging pianist and composer, the music industry knows he has even more talents. He is the co-developer of the revolutionary computer MIDI-adaptor for the acoustic piano which, for the first time, allows this age-old instrument to interact with computers and synthesizers. In addition, when Jim first left Texas and ventured to Los Angeles, he built a top-flight reputation as "the piano tuner for the stars." Between tuning pianos and teaching uses of the piano-MIDI, he worked closely for several years with the upper echelon of pop musicians such as Paul McCartney, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Jackson Browne, Burt Bacharach, Carole King and many, many more. Whenever Jim played his own music for them while sitting at their pianos, they became fans, offered glowing endorsements and encouraged him to pursue his own musical dreams.

This led to an official endorsement by Yamaha Pianos, who provide instruments for his performances across the country both as a solo artist and with his six-piece band (more than a thousand shows so far and counting). Additionally he composed music for the CBS-TV series Frank's Place. On top of that, CNN's Showbiz Today television show devoted a segment to Jim's music and included interviews with renowned producers David Foster and George Duke praising Wilson's talents.

Not bad for a boy who grew up in Texas cow country. Although born in Greenville, South Carolina, Jim moved to Amarillo when he was six and lived there until he was 20. When he was seven, he picked up a guitar at a friend's house and the older man gave it to Jim. "From then on I had this incredible passion for music and learning to play it," he remembers. "I started learning some James Taylor riffs. That style has stayed with me even after I switched to piano playing when I was 19. But around nine or ten I started composing songs. About then my charismatic cousin from California came to visit. He breezed into town with his long hair, guitar, songs and stories, and that really ignited the musical fire in my life. I started playing in professional bands when I was 14. I couldn't wait to be a musician."

When he was 22, Wilson went to piano-tuning school so he would always have a solid money-making trade. He headed to Los Angeles where he continued to write songs, got a song publisher and began placing his material on television shows. During that time he also was making a name for himself as a first-rate piano technician. He was so busy that he put off trying to get a recording contract for several years until 1997 when, sadly, his best friend died suddenly. This life-changing event made him realize "you never know when you're going to be called, so you better be proud of what you've done and the legacy you're leaving behind." Soon Jim wrote and recorded his first album, sent copies to 20 record companies and seven of them immediately responded with contract offers (that sort of overwhelming response is almost unheard of in the music business).

On Nothern Seascape, Wilson was joined by musical luminaries such as Fogelberg, Johnstone, Castro and Rigler to create an album that immediately drew attention from radio, media and ultimately consumers. The recording featured all original material with the exception of an exquisite instrumental cover version of Walk Away Renee, the Sixties hit for the Left Banke and Four Tops.

Now with Cape Of Good Hope, Wilson has crafted another album of catchy, heartfelt melodies plus another instrumental cover version, this time of Steve Winwood's 1969 Blind Faith classic, Can't Find My Way Home. The album comes with two versions, a haunting piano-guitar-sax trio recording and an expanded radio mix that includes percussion. There are two songs with vocals -- Donna Lynn with singer Stephen Bishop (best-known for his big hit On and On), and Picasso's Midnight Stroll with ethereal wordless vocals by Fogelberg, Wilson and Casey Stratton (who also adds gossamer background vocals on Cape of Good Hope and Discovery).

Other tunes include the Celtic-tinged Susanna, 'Til I See You Again and More and More. There's also the quietly jazzy Friend highlighted by a David Sanborn sax solo. The album kicks off with a tour de force, the title track, named after the southern tip of Africa where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet with violent currents that claimed many sailors lives. Wilson says the song and album are dedicated "to the spirit of voyaging into the unknown in the quest for a better life. The song has a special meaning for me as a metaphor for the triumph of making it to the other side after confronting your fears."

According to Jim, Discovery was written "to celebrate the spirit of adventure and is dedicated to man's quest for flight." Picasso's Midnight Stroll is the soundtrack for a visual adventure imagining what the painter would see walking the streets of Paris under a full moon. Home in the Heartland is Jim's tribute to his Texas childhood. "There's nothing that compares to those amazing sunsets, or the massive thunderclouds rolling through on a hot summer day, or those bonfires and hayrides out on the farm."

Jim also remembers another inspiration for this album. "When I was growing up, I had a poster on my wall with this quote that said, 'Let go of what you are for what you can become.' I also had a poster of Farrah Fawcett in that red bathing suit, but that's a whole other story."