The Family Business is Jazz

The Jenny Wilson Jazz Trio invigorates Morgantown with its improvisational style of music.


Photo Courtesy of Jenny Wilson Jazz Trio

Nathan Wilson hesitates when asked what life would be like for his family without music. “I’d rather not dwell on the question,” he says. “Music gives us a rallying point.”

As one-third of the Jenny Wilson Jazz Trio, Nathan, the stepfather and double bassist in the group, brought the band together years ago. Along with wife, Jenny, and son Evan (as well as the occasional company of stepdaughter, Ava), this small jazz act excels in Morgantown.

The group’s website boasts a busy performance schedule, and they also take their show on the road with performances in places like Pittsburgh and even Maine.  

Nathan first learned to play jazz in Morgantown by studying jazz records and practicing alone in his living room. His self-taught approach differs greatly from that of Jenny, who was formally trained and graduated from West Virginia University’s Master of Music Jazz Pedagogy program. She plays the piano and flute for the trio, and has toured in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. Jenny’s son, Evan, is currently enrolled at WVU and plays the drums for the trio as well as another local band, Fletcher’s Grove.  

Music is in the family’s veins. Nathan and Jenny met in Morgantown at one of Nathan’s jazz performances. They connected and began to play music together. “When we got married, we not only merged our lives and families, we also merged our CD collections, instruments, and musical equipment,” Nathan says. “Part of our family and home life is music. It would be impossible to be involved with Jenny and the kids and not be involved in each other’s music.”

Jenny and Nathan recorded their first record as a duo in 2005. Just this past year, the Jenny Wilson Jazz Trio made its recorded debut. Titled What She Sang in Winter, the new album features eight songs completely composed by Jenny. “We’re really proud of the recordings we put together,” Nathan says. “They truly represent us as a trio, and it’s a real Morgantown project.” This musical family wrote, recorded, mixed, printed, and packaged the CD all in Morgantown. “The only thing we had done elsewhere was the physical pressing of the CDs.”

With so much of their lives revolving around music, you might think burnout would be an issue, but that’s not the case. “The improvisational nature and the harmonic complexity of the music allows me never to tire of playing the same songs over again,” Nathan says. “I never feel like I’m about to play that same old song again. I feel like I’m getting another chance to play that song again.”

You can catch the Jenny Wilson Jazz Trio live at Black Bear Burritos in Morgantown on Tuesday, December 18, 2012. The show starts at 6 p.m.

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