Selected Quotes

one of the most exciting musicians in the country…Wilson was always the real thing, exploiting the instrument’s warmth and sonic breadth to make gripping statements. The Melbourne saxophonist arrived on a shock wave in the early ‘90s and has been vital to Australian creative music since.” John Shand, Sydney Morning Herald

“recognised as one of Australia’s outstanding voices on the tenor saxophone for over a decade” The Bulletin

“Wilson’s tenor partakes of the profound well of tenor saxophone sounds and styles while emerging as Wilson’s own language. John Clare, The Music Trust

“Julien’s musicality transcends the instrument. His music is bigger than his technique, his playing evokes beauty.” Freedman Fellowship Judges Announcement 

“a level of maturity, and a storytelling quality that place him proudly in the lineage of such great tenor balladeers as Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, Stan Getz and Joe Lovano.” Adrian Jackson, Rhythms

“I can hear influences as diverse as Archie Shepp, Jan Garbarek, Ben Webster, Gato Barbieri, Dave Liebman… But particularly, of Mark Simmonds, who is one of the heroes of jazz saxophone in this country” Dale Barlow

“Australia has produced few tenor saxophonists of note, especially given the wealth of exceptional practitioners on other instruments. Among those to stand out, a direct lineage of influence runs from the late Merv Acheson to the explosive Mark Simmonds and on to Julien Wilson. Central to that lineage is a concept of how the horn should sound: massive, sprawling, wearing its heart on its sleeve, and gripping the listener from the first note. Working over his open-ended, engaging compositions, Wilson produced a sound that was haunting and burly – a rare combination that ensured the simplest melody was arresting. Sydney Morning Herald



“The Friday evening performance at the Melbourne International Festival by the Magnusson/Wilson Quartet was one of the standouts at the festival. Tenor saxophonist Julien Wilson and Stephen Magnusson are both winners of the National Jazz awards, and have collaborated in their band SNAG. Their current music is exploratory and adventurous, exhibiting an almost telepathic interplay between the co-leaders. If I had to reach for comparisons, I might hark back to Keith Jarrett’s Quartet recordings for Impulse of the early seventies (high praise indeed). There is something of the same tension at work here, with Magnusson’s more European-orientated soundscapes constantly under threat by Wilson’s probing tenor forays. This was music of great complexity, played passionately by musicians who have more than delivered on their early promise.” Des Cowley ‘Rhythms Magazine’

THE JOY OF RECKLESSNESS – Side on Cafe, August 19 1999 “From a Sydney perspective, Julien Wilson seemed to erupt from nowhere at the 1994 Wangaratta Jazz Festival The young Melbournian, bursting with explosive energy, stormed off with the laurels in the National Jazz Awards amid controversy. Five years on he is one of the most exciting musicians in the country. Like certain of his tenor-saxophone forebears – Evan Parker, Gato Barbieri – Wilson tends to reach climaxes quickly. But having got there, what sets him apart from many other short-fuse improvisers is the ability to sustain those peaks with undiminished fervour for substantial periods. Crucial to this is his continual manipulation of timbre, using a magnificent braying wail as a base sound. His finest solo came on McCoy Tyner’s Contempla­tion, when the intensity threatened to flatten the room. On his own Used To Be, with its languid melody draped casually over a taut, insistent 5/4 pulse, the wild interval leaps in his tumultuous improvisation suggested a joy in just being reckless for the sake of it.”  John Shand, Sydney Morning Herald

“Another group that often hovered on the edge of chaos was SNAG, which delighted in setting up crisp musical structures before gleefully tearing them to pieces. Lush, dreamlike textures collide with restless, rock-like grooves, while subtle rhythmic and harmonic displacements kept the players constantly on their toes.” Jessica Nicholas ‘The Age’

“Saxophonist Julien Wilson seems to be the leader musically here. His technique is prodigious and he has a wide emotional and sonic range. There are passages here where he shows his grasp of, and personal take on, avant-garde playing from the 60s on up through the present w/ gruff, free-wailing screeds which touch on ideas from Ayler through to D.S. Ware. He also has a firm grip on how to play sensitively at low volumes on more ballad-like, changes style material. Very convincing.”

“It’s not easy to sum up a weekend of music in a few words, but whatever else can be said about the 2013 Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival, there was an abundance of imaginative playing and exemplary musicianship. I think this festival is best summed up by three themes: Ubiquitous Julien Wilson, piano prowess and the wizardy of Australian musicians. First, the weekend of gigs could have been re-named the Wangaratta Julien Festival in honour of the phenomenal playing by saxophonist Julien Wilson in so many line-ups. Julien recently had a close call during surgery in hospital, but recovered to play superbly. He seemed omnipresent. I heard him in five ensembles. In each his playing displayed almost all the qualities you’d hope to hear from saxophone or bass clarinet, from fiery blasts to deeply resonant mining expeditions or subtle soliloquies. As I write this I am conscious that at last year’s festival a standout concert featured Wilson with fellow reedsman David Ades, who is now seriously ill and in our thoughts. That concert stays with me.

Many of Julien Wilson’s solos this year will also remain in my memory, among them his freakily good explorations in ‘Rebellious Bird’, which he dedicated to Ades. Among other highlights was his rendition, in his first outing in a quartet format, of Paul Desmond’s ‘Wendy’, performed in honour of the recently departed Bernie McGann, and a finely nuanced solo on ‘Deep Night’. Another came with drummer Allan Browne and bassist Sam Anning (on loan from the US) at the launch of their recent album Sweethearts. Empathy, warmth and understanding were evident as the trio members demonstrated how well they work together. It was a joy to hear this, though I had to leave early.
The “high octane” Julien was on show in B For Chicken. And in the Jonathan Zwartz Ensemble, Wilson — dubbed Lazarus by the bassist — excelled in ‘Wait Until the Morning’. … …

Other standout gigs featuring Australian artists were the Jonathan Zwartz Ensemble and the classy Nock/Magnusson/Wilson.”
ROGER MITCHELL – Ausjazz Blog –