After years of performing with dozens of Waco musicians, jazz pianist Dave Wild brings in a collaborator close to home Monday night: his bass-playing brother Ken.
Though the Wild brothers have performed together off and on through much of their adult lives, Monday’s concert at Cultivate 7twelve will give Waco jazz fans the chance to see the two play together.
Rounding out the evening’s musicians are guitarist Chuck Jennings, drummer Ed Taylor and vocalist Beth Ullman. And, in true jazz tradition, the second set may open the door for attending musicians to drop in and play.
Ken, 66, a Los Angeles-based musician with extensive experience in studio work, jazz combos, theater and film, comes to town thanks to another Waco connection, singer-songwriter J.D. Hinton, who’s performing in Austin and Houston, with Ken in his backing ensemble.
When Dave, 71, learned his brother was going to be in Texas, he reminded him that Waco was just up the highway. “‘I told him, ‘If you’re going to get that close, come up to Waco,’ ” he said. As an added incentive, Dave’s daughter and grandchild would be visiting, giving Ken a chance to see family.
The Wild brothers were born in New York City and grew up in a military family that moved often in their childhood. In the mid 1960s, they were in Honolulu, Hawaii, when the seeds to their jazz, planted in their parents’ love for a wide range of music, got cultivated. The older, piano-playing Dave had started a jazz combo while a student at the University of Hawaii and his bassist stored his upright bass at their house.
Ken, who had been playing clarinet and saxophone, started to dabble with the instrument stashed next to the piano and proved adept enough that Dave later pulled him in as his combo’s bassist, though he was still in high school. Dave later moved to Michigan for a master’s degree in English, then a non-music career, writing about and playing jazz on the side until his retirement from the Veterans Administration in 2009.
The younger Wild also went on to attend the University of Hawaii, but found success as a bass player. Hawaii was a stopover for national performers on their way to Japan, many of whom would squeeze in a show or two while there. Wild found himself sitting in for such entertainers as Sammy Davis Jr.
In 1972, he helped start the band Seawind, which relocated four years later to Southern California. There they opened for such musicians as George Benson, Herbie Hancock and Boz Scaggs, toured on their own and recorded four albums. “We kind of had a cult following,” Ken said.
Seawind eventually broke up. One member, Jerry Hey, went on to become an arranger for Quincy Jones and Earth, Wind & Fire, while Ken found plenty of studio work on both upright and electric bass. It’s an instrument that’s both rhythmic and melodic, he observed. “Everybody depends on the bass as a foundation they can lay music on,” he said.
Some four decades of Ken’s extensive music credits include more than two dozen film scores, a 14-year stint with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, touring with Natalie Cole’s band from 2002 to 2004, more than 20 years with television’s “The Simpsons” and the L.A. pit orchestras for such musicals as “Book of Mormon,” “Wicked,” “Les Miserables,” “Mary Poppins” and “The Rocky Horror Show.” Ken presently is playing in Johnny Mathis’ touring band.
Dave got back more into performing jazz after moving to Waco in 1994, earning a master’s in jazz studies from the University of North Texas in 2012 and becoming a fixture in Waco’s fluid jazz scene.
Whenever the Wilds’ paths crossed on visits to California and Texas, they often performed together, including occasional work with the Temple Jazz Orchestra.
“He’s the best bass player I’ve worked with,” said Dave. Ken has praise for his sibling, too. “Dave is a wonderful writer as well as player,” he said.
Ken’s eager to reconnect with family and check out Waco’s burgeoning jazz scene with its multiple players and growing venues, he said.
Monday’s show will feature some Dave Wild originals, some standards and, true to the nature of jazz, some improvised surprises and a lot of brotherly love. “There’s a ton of common ground in our tastes,” said Dave. “No fighting in the bandstand or anything like that. “