b. 3 August 1936, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Wilson studied piano at Fort Wayne College of Music and the University of Indiana, with time out for a fleeting professional foray with James Moody. He briefly played baritone saxophone but after settling in Columbus, Ohio, he played piano with musicians such as Rahsaan Roland Kirk. He joined Dinah Washington and in bands led by the singer’s then husband, Eddie Chamblee. In Chicago in the late 50s, he made own-name trio sessions for Argo Records, was in bass player Richard Davis’ trio, and then served in the US Army, playing tenor saxophone in military bands. After military service Wilson briefly rejoined Washington, recording with her as a member of Quincy Jones’ studio band, before entering the Los Angeles film and television studios. He was also in outfits recording behind singers such as Sammy Davis Jnr. , Julie London, O.C. Smith, Nancy Wilson and Sarah Vaughan, and played on Curtis Amy’s Katanga!, while on alto saxophonist Earl Anderza’s Outa Sight he played harpsichord. During these same years, Wilson was a regular member of Gerald Wilson’s big band, appearing on Moment Of Truth and The Golden Sword.
Wilson led his own small bands for a flurry of 60s recording dates, including playing organ in two-organ combos with Genghis Kyle and Harry Cain. He also led an all-star sextet for his 1967 Easterly Winds session, featuring Lee Morgan and Jackie McLean. During most of the 70s, Wilson was usually behind the scenes in studio work, but he made more own-name dates in the late 70s and also played with Eddie Harris and Lorez Alexandria. In the early 80s he recorded with Clark Terry and was with Sonny Stitt and Richie Cole on a tour of Australia. In New York City in the mid-80s, he worked in duo with bass player Ed Schuller.
A dynamic, hard bop player, Wilson was vigorous and inventive and displayed considerable technical mastery and dexterity. Early in the 00s, reissues of some of his 60s albums revived interest in this fine, if lesser known and under valued pianist.