One of the most popular new contemporary instrumental pianists to emerge in the past few years, Jim Wilson returns with his sixth album, BENEATH THE OLYMPIAN SKIES. The CD is Jim's follow-up to his Billboard bestseller, A PLACE IN MY HEART, which received rave reviews, placed in the top 5 for two months in a row on national airplay charts and was nominated by radio programmers around the world for Album of the Year and Best Instrumental Album Piano in the 2005 NAR Music Awards.
Wilson's most diverse recording to date, BENEATH THE OLYMPIAN SKIES is a stellar collection of ten new original compositions that continue his theme of melodic tributes. "I love to travel and many of my songs are inspired by people and places that have inspired me."
The evocative, cinematic title cut was inspired by a trip Wilson took to Washington state's Olympic Peninsula in the most northwest corner of the United States. "It's truly one of the more magical regions in the world. The rocky, dramatic coastline; the lush rainforest the only one in the continental U.S.; the towering forests of lodgepole pines. I was absolutely transfixed the entire time," says Wilson. "I was fortunate to capture some amazing video footage of the region and we've incorporated it into my newest performance video."
These "performance videos" are featured in his latest one-hour public television special, "JIM WILSON & FRIENDS: A PLACE IN MY HEART," airing on PBS affiliates around the country. Now available on DVD, the concert special was taped before the first sold-out audience in the new 30 million-dollar Texas landmark, the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts. The event was by all accounts a truly magical evening during which the audience was transported on a "cinematic melodic journey." Jim's musical themes were woven around breathtaking images and movies coordinated with the music, projected on a 25-foot screen filling the stage behind the performers. Jim and his band were joined by world-renowned Irish-flute player, ERIC RIGLER, L.A.-based string ensemble BELLA MUSICA, and Italian classical-pop recording artist ROMINA ARENA.
BENEATH THE OLYMPIAN SKIES continues this tradition of working with renowned musicians ambient pop violin player Lili Haydn, smooth-jazz hitmaker Chris Standring, world-class bassist Nathan East, former Elton John drummer Charlie Morgan, woodwind master George Tortorelli and Phil Collins band member Brad Cole. Another highlight of the new recording is the presence of real string players the violin-viola-cello trio known as Bella Musica on many of the tracks.
About the dedication on the back of the CD, Wilson says, "These songs are my heartfelt offerings and when people share with me that my music provides spiritual refuge for them, it's truly a blessing. I found this beautiful poem called "Every Place a Temple" by the 18th century writer John Pierpont that perfectly encapsulated my sentiment for the record:
"From every place below the skies
The grateful song, the fervent prayer,
The incense of the heart, may rise
To heaven, and find acceptance there."
With BENEATH THE OLYMPIAN SKIES, Wilson once again delivers his trademark combination of memorable melodies and lush film-score quality arrangements. This recording offers his widest diversity of themes so far, from the dramatic title cut, to the majestic "Beside The River Of Dreams," to the adventurous, spirited "Rio". "This song is probably the biggest departure for me so far. I started writing this samba-flavored tune years ago during a trip to Brazil and only recently completed it. It has this fun, easygoing, "I'm on holiday" quality to it. It's a real joy to play."
About the track "Beside The River of Dreams", Wilson says, "The song tells the story through music and images of the Texas Panhandle's majestic Palo Duro Canyon the timeless setting for Native American tribes, Spanish explorers and famous civil war battles. Regional photographers have contributed phenomenal still and video images of the canyon and the performance video is just gorgeous." The video also incorporates stunning aerial footage of the canyon Wilson acquired with assistance from his pilot and videographer friends.
The CD includes more of Jim's signature achingly-beautiful ballads: "Dreamland", "When the World Belonged to Us" and "Through Your Eyes" the latter is dedicated to Jim's newlywed niece Devon and her husband Joel. "There's a profound beauty in two people coming together to commit their lives to each other. This song has a very romantic quality to it that articulates my sentiments for them."
The last song on the album is the emotional "Don't Stand At My Grave" the instrumental version of a poem Wilson set to music. Jim says, "I was given this poignant poem when my brother died years ago. The imagery was so strong and the message so powerful that it moved me to tears." The CD ends with "Dreamland (Reprise)" which Jim says, "is like a sentimental recalling of a beautiful place you've been."
BENEATH THE OLYMPIAN SKIES follows Wilson's first five albums, which were all strong sellers NORTHERN SEASCAPE, CAPE OF GOOD HOPE, MY FIRST CHRISTMAS WITH YOU, QUIET SHADOWS (his versions of pop standards) and A PLACE IN MY HEART. The release of his second album was highlighted by the airing of an hour-long national PBS television special, "Jim Wilson & Friends: Cape of Good Hope (and Other Musical Portraits)" and a live national concert appearance on QVC television. Wilson proved to be one of the few contemporary instrumentalists who can bridge the gap between new age, smooth jazz and Celtic-flavored pop. Other musicians who guested on these recordings include Richard Elliot, Everette Harp, Peter White, Lisa Lynne, Steve Lukather, Lee Sklar, Steve Porcaro and Lenny Castro.
Although the public thinks of Jim Wilson as a rapidly emerging pianist and composer, the music industry knows he has even more talents. He helped develop a revolutionary MIDI-adaptor for the acoustic piano, which for the first time allows this age-old instrument to interact with computers and synthesizers. He developed a topflight reputation, teaching uses of MIDI-piano to the upper echelon of pop musicians such as Paul McCartney, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Jackson Browne, Burt Bacharach, Carole King and many, many more. Whenever Jim played his own music for them while sitting at their pianos, they encouraged him to pursue his own musical dreams.
Jim soon landed an official endorsement by Yamaha Pianos, with the company providing instruments for his performances across the country both as a solo artist and with his six-piece band (more than a thousand shows so far and counting). Wilson has composed music for the CBS-TV series "Frank's Place" and CNN's "Showbiz Today" television show devoted a segment to Jim's music.
Jim grew up in Texas, beginning his love-affair with music at the age of 7. He picked up a guitar at the house of a family friend who gave the instrument to Jim on a whim. "From then on I had this incredible passion for music and learning to play it. Around nine or ten I started composing songs. About that time my charismatic cousin from California came to visit. He breezed into town with his long hair, guitar, songs and stories, and that really ignited the musical fire in my life. I couldn't wait to be a musician. I started playing in professional bands when I was 14. I switched to playing piano when I was 19." Soon thereafter, Jim packed up all of his possessions in a van and headed to California to pursue his dreams of a career in the music business. "For many people California has represented the Promised Land, the Land of Dreams. I love the energy of the people and the encouragement of the arts."
Jim began his recording career in 1997 when his best friend died suddenly. "That was a life-changing event that made me realize that you never know when you're going to be called, so you better be proud of what you've done and the legacy you're leaving behind." Now that musical legacy is enriched even further with BENEATH THE OLYMPIAN SKIES.