If you live in Akron and love jazz, you might (probably) have already heard of him. But his laid back attitude, humble demeanor and simple outfit of jeans and a T-shirt don’t really clue you in to how much talent Dan Wilson possesses.
When he starts playing, though, that’s when you know.
Wilson was born and raised in Akron, Ohio and according to his website, music has always been an integral piece of his life since his involvement in gospel music. It wasn’t until he heard a Wes Montgomery record, that he decided to make music a career.
He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Music and Liberal Studies from Hiram College in 2006 and completed his Masters Thesis at Youngstown State University in 2009. He’s constantly improving upon his skills and attempts to connect with his audience. Guitar is his most recent instrument but he also know how to play drums and bass.
“I challenge myself by just learning more tunes. It’s almost like you have to have a library inside your head,” Wilson said. “A successful musician is one who works on his craft and perfects his craft and also has the knowledge of how to relate to his audience. I think there are so many musicians who are proficient on their instrument but have no social skills. You have to know how to talk to your audience and play some songs they recognize.”
Wilson plays everywhere: Russia, Germany, Ohio, Kentucky, just to name a few. He also teaches jazz guitar and improvisation at Cuyahoga Community College. But one of his favorite places to play is in his hometown.
“I really like the potential of Akron. I see where it can go. It’s not really a music town yet, but as more and more musicians are becoming successful, more and more people in the city are starting to take notice,” Wilson said.
One of his favorite spots to play is Edgar’s restaurant because “the vibe is great,” and he said it has turned into a jazz club of sorts where “people really appreciate the music”. For him, playing in Akron is easy because everything is so close, within a 15 to 20 minute drive. He can’t imagine living anywhere else.
“I feel like, as a city, we can capitalize on that by creating more establishments that promote live music, no matter what the genre.” he added. “I think the thing we can work on, though, is our awareness of different types of music.”
Although he loves Akron, he said he’d love to split his time between Akron and New York City, where he often visits every couple months to “pop in and show my face.” Since Wilson manages his own bookings, he makes sure to get his name out when he’s in the city.
Doing everything yourself can be a struggle, he said, but lots of things end up happening by word of mouth. His first album, to whom it may concern, was a “huge learning process” as Wilson had to educate himself on copyright, licensing, recording cost and a whole list of items.
He’s currently working on another album that will “probably” be a organ trio. Currently, Wilson’s main working group is an organ trio with an organist from Youngstown named Cliff Barnes, and a drummer from Pittsburgh named Dave Throckmorton.
On Aug. 23, Wilson will open at the Akron Civic Theater for David Sanborn, whom Wilson considers one of the great saxophone players of the modern age.
As Wilson continues to grow as a musician, he hopes he can continue to make quality music and be able to share it with a larger audience.
“The only advice I have (for other musicians) is advice that was given to me by Sean Jones, an insanely gifted musician from Ohio, and in my opinion, the best jazz trumpet player in the world. He told me, ‘you have to be undeniable.’ Learn all aspects of your craft including rhythm, harmony, melody, writing, and reading. That way no one in the ‘industry’ can pull the wool over your eyes.”
A list of upcoming Dan Wilson shows:
Dan Wilson Group at Lock 4
Akron Civic Theater
Opening for David Sanborn
Take 5 in Cleveland
Bar Next Door
New York, NY
For more information, please visit http://www.danwilsonguitar.com.