“You don’t get this kind of intimacy even in a jazz club,” says Matt Wilson, Grammy-nominated drummer and host of Tilles Center’s Jazz on Stage concert series. “In our concerts, the audience is right up on stage with the musicians.”

Sunday afternoon the audience shares the stage with the Renee Rosnes Quartet, led by the jazz pianist who’s won four Juno Awards, Canada’s equivalent of the Grammy.

“There are so many jazz greats based in New York,” Wilson says, “but not many places to play on Long Island. This is a unique experience. The musicians set up facing the back of the stage. It’s like a Sunday concert in a living room but with a view of the concert hall behind the band.”

The series was launched last season in an effort to bring jazz up close and personal in the 2,000-seat Tilles concert hall. Even neighboring 490-seat Hillwood Recital Hall is too large, too formal to replicate the nightclub-style venues jazz fans and musicians favor.


As for the personal, Wilson interviews the bandleader or solo musician 45 minutes before the concert. “We used to give our starting time as 3 o’clock, when the music starts,” Wilson says. “But people would arrive to find a conversation going on. So now we say it’s at 2:15.”

On Sunday, Wilson chats with Rosnes, who relocated from her native Vancouver to New York in 1986. “We’ll talk about the who’s who of jazz musicians she’s played with,” Wilson says, ticking off such names as Wayne Shorter, J.J. Johnson and James Moody. Rosnes played in Moody’s quartet until his death in 2010. Aside from leading her own group, Rosnes is a member of bassist Ron Carter’s quartet and performs with her husband, Bill Charlap, featured in the inaugural Jazz on Stage concert in 2015. Together they recorded “Double Portrait” on Blue Note. A composer, too, Rosnes has had her music recorded by Phil Woods and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra, among others.

advertisement | advertise on newsday


Wilson, interviewed by phone from Uruguay, where his South American tour also took him to Chile, leads his eponymous quartet as well as Arts and Crafts, Christmas Tree-O (trio, get it?) and the Carl Sandburg Project. He performed at a televised White House concert also featuring Herbie Hancock, Dianne Reeves, Chris Botti and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Wilson hones his interview skills as artist-in-residence at the Litchfield (Connecticut) Jazz Festival, where Dave Brubeck gave one of his last interviews.

The father of triplet sons and a daughter who is now attending Connecticut’s Hartt School of Music, Wilson lives in Baldwin, commuting to the city and to LIU Post, where he teaches jazz drum and leading graduate and undergrad ensembles.

Jazz on Stage has been a revelation, not only to audiences, who get a rare glimpse backstage, but to himself. “Even I learn something about the people I interview,” he says, “even though they’re friends and colleagues.”