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Reuben Wilson

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New York, United States (1962 – present)

Reuben Wilson was one of many soul-jazz organists to emerge in the late ’60s, but he was one of only a handful of new organists from that era to be signed to Blue Note. Between 1968 and 1971, he recorded five sessions for the label. None of his records received much acknowledgment at the time, but they were later rediscovered by a new generation of soul-jazz fans, becoming collector’s items within acid jazz and soul-jazz circles. Wilson began performing professionally in 1962.

A native of Mounds, OK, he moved to Pasadena, CA, as a child, where he attended school with such future jazz musicians as Bobby Hutcherson and Herb Lewis. As a teenager, Wilson began to teach himself to play piano, but his attention was diverted by boxing, which landed him a sparring gig with heavyweight Floyd Patterson, and perhaps more notably, landed him an acting spot in the landmark feature film, Carmen Jones. When he was 17, he moved to Los Angeles and married a nightclub singer, through whom he met a number of professional musicians. Associating with musicians convinced Wilson to return to music. Instead of pursuing the piano, he decided to take up the organ, and it wasn’t long before he became a regular at the Caribbean club, where he played with drummer Eddie Williams, guitarist George Freeman, and, eventually, Clifford Scott (of Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk” fame). He played the L.A. circuit for several years before deciding to try his luck in Las Vegas. That venture proved unsuccessful, so he moved back to L.

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