from The New Tribune:

Bert Wilson, an Olympia resident and famed saxophonist, died Thursday night of a heart attack at Providence St. Peter Hospital. He was 73.

Wilson was known for multiphonic sax playing, getting as many as four notes at once from his instrument, which was designed for one note at a time, said his wife, Nancy Curtis.

He played as recently as Tuesday, she said, before the heart attack.

Stricken with polio when he was 4, Wilson spent much of his life in a wheelchair. He was mostly paralyzed, Curtis said, but had some movement left in his shoulders, arms, neck and head, “which was perfect for playing wind instruments.”

Wilson was born in Evansville, Ind., on Oct. 15, 1939. His grandfather was a vaudeville performer, and before too long, the young Wilson was joining him on stage. Polio changed all that.

Many of Wilson’s growing-up years were spent in a hospital school in Chicago. But that was where he got turned on to jazz, hearing Charlie Parker, his wife said. By age 12 he was playing the clarinet, and he learned the saxophone a year later. Playing the keyboard was another of his specialties.

After graduation, Wilson and his mother moved to Los Angeles and he established himself in the scene there. He moved to New York in 1965.

Life was hard for a musician in a wheelchair before the days of accessible buildings. “The only places he could afford were ground floor apartments where people would break in and steal everything,” Curtis said.

He left New York for Berkeley, Calif., in the early 1970s, only to find himself back in New York by the end of the decade. Wilson taught Lenny Pickett, who went on to become the leader of the Saturday Night Live Band.

Friends coaxed him to Olympia in 1979, Curtis said, and he’s been here ever since. She met Wilson in 1980, and the two musicians became fast friends.

“He was feisty and opinionated,” she said, with a saxophone “to back up his opinions and opinions to back up his opinions also.

“He really loved to play … as hard as he could and make beautiful music and pretty much did every time.”

Curtis said that funeral arrangements are pending. “I know that what Bert would want would be some music, and I want it to be his because he wrote a lot of beautiful contributions.”

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Seattle Jazz