Monday, November 10, 2008

Phillip Wilson remembered

Phillip Wilson, the drummer and St. Louis native who was an early member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, broke into the musical big time with the Butterfield Blues Band, and went on to play with many of the important free jazz musicians of the 1970s and 1980s, is remembered fondly in a recent post by Brian Olewnick at his blog Just Outside.

To interject a personal note, I've had an interest in Wilson and his music since my teens, when I played in a teenage garage/basement band with two of his nephews, who told many awe-tinged stories about their famous "Uncle Phillip" and his adventures in the music biz. Given the relative paucity of information about him on the 'Net, it's nice to see someone else remembering Wilson, who was murdered near NYC's Central Park in 1992, when he was just 50 years old.

There's also a page about Wilson at that offers a sampling of his discography, albeit with some notable omissions, including his work with Butterfield and with Full Moon, a sort of jazz/funk/pop spin-off of the Butterfield band that included keyboardist Neil Larson, guitarist Buzz Feiten and saxophonist Gene Dinwiddie. Despite those gaps, the page is worth a look if you'd like to know more about this great but under-remembered musician.


Anonymous said...

Dear friends of Phillip Wilson.

As a matter of fact, Phillp was executed in the evening of
March 25, 1992 at 440 East 9 Street in Manhattan by an assassin named Marvin Slater. Slater had been stalking Phillip for several months. Slater was arrested a few weeks after an America's Most Wanted episode in 1996. Slater was also a longtime police informant. Slater was convicted for premeditated intentional murder in 1997. Slater did not disclose the motive. The accomplice "T" was released by the police a day before the trial.
Slater is currently in the New York State prison system for which the "inmate look up" requires the prisoner date of birth which is October 11, 1958.

That March 25,1992 day was the first warm day of the year. Phillip was healthy and feeling fantastique. He had taken his dog Bear for a walk and chatted with artist Robert Parker at the garden before he went to his apartment on East 13 Street where he made a Quiche Lorraine for lunch. Also, Phillip was working on several music projects. The way Phillip's life was terminated demands an explanation by Slater.

Anonymous said...

Yes, thanks for this--but the word on 13th Street and in the squats the next day or two certainly did identify a motive. Apparently the two accomplices had got it in their heads that Phillip had expensive recording equipment--amplifiers, mixing board, drum kits, and instruments--at a rehearsal space, I believe down by the park, where he regularly wood-shedded. Could have been E. 9th St. They also believed he had money. They went with him to the space and tied him up, apparently, while they went through the gear, and tried to force him to tell where his "riches" were--this was typical crackhead madness, for the neighborhood and the time. My understanding is that they covered his face and head with plastic, and left him alone while going off to sell some of the equipment, and that he suffocated. I believe his body was found wrapped in plastic tarp with rope and electrical cords. He was a sweet guy, admired and liked by all in the squats and on the streets who knew him. The shock and violence of his death was, for me, the nadir of the crackhead years on the Lower East Side.

Les Murray said...

I just googled him to find out what he was up to and I am in shock. I met him and his girlfriend when Butterfield came to Montreal. He was one of the nicest people I had ever met.

Asitsbeensaid thisday said...

I lived on the Lower East Side back in the day, in the late 70's, and for short time I lived, rehearsed, and played at the LaMama Theater, which was a hangout and rehearsal space for a lot of the top vanguard cats of that time, including Phillip.

I knew Phillip well and considered him a friend. I heard a similar story, however, there was supposedly someone else in the apartment or studio that these murderers were looking for and Phillip just happen to be "with the wrong person at the wrong time." And also, I heard that he was bound and gagged, and choked on the gag put in his mouth and that's he died by way of asphyxiation. An extraordinary drummer and beautiful human being... He will be sorely missed.

Unknown said...

I saw Mr. Wilson with the great multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton at the old Oil Can Harry's jazz club in Vancouver, B.C. back around 1976. Dave Holland was on bass; Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet. One amazing quartet, indeed! I had heard that Mr. Wilson had died... But I had assumed it was illness, not a murder!