Music was in the air at the Dan Wilensky's house: every family member played at least one instrument, and family jam sessions were frequent. He began piano lessons at age 8, and saxophone at 9 after he heard the Duke Ellington Orchestra perform at Berkeley High School. As a teenager, he street played, performed with schoolmates Benny Green, Craig Handy, Paul Hanson and Steve Bernstein, gigged with local bands, won top honors in various competitions, performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival three times, and was a guest soloist with the Woody Herman Orchestra. When he was 17, Wilensky studied for a year with jazz legend Joe Henderson, and received a scholarship to the Eastman School of Music.
The summer after high school, Wilensky heard that Ray Charles was looking for a lead alto player for his big band. He auditioned, and got the gig. "Ray told me to be in LA on Monday. It was surreal," he recalls. After six months with Ray, a brief stint at Eastman, and six months with Jack McDuff, he moved to New York.
In 1986, Wilensky worked in the house band at the Playboy Club, played Bob Fosse's Broadway show Big Deal, won a National Endowment for the Arts award for jazz performance and composition, and toured with Steve Winwood playing saxophone and keyboards. He subsequently played on numerous commercial jingles, film soundtracks and TV themes, and can be heard on over 250 records, including hits by Santana, Madonna, R. Kelly, Freddie Jackson, Deborah Harry, Donna Summer, Bryan Ferry, Mark Murphy, Keith Washington, Hall & Oates, Melissa Manchester, James Brown, Rory Block, Manhattan Transfer, and Faith No More.
Other career highlights include touring with Joan Baez as her pianist, performing in several videos and TV shows with David Bowie, Steve Winwood, Martika, and Sheena Easton, playing with Rick Derringer in the TV house band for Joy Behar's Way Off Broadway, and gigging with Ben E. King, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Carole King, Cab Calloway and Aretha Franklin. Wilensky has also appeared on The Today Show, The Tonight Show, Late Night With David Letterman, The View, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, The Arsenio Hall Show, and The Uncle Floyd Show, and he was featured extensively on the Emmy® - winning PBS children's show Between The Lions during its twelve year run. In addition, he wrote two saxophone method books, Saxophone Technique, and Advanced Sax.
Currently, Wilensky performs, records, and teaches in the greater New York area. His new book, MUSICIAN! A Practical Guide for Students, Music Lovers, Amateurs, Professionals, Superstars, Wannabees and Has-Beens.
March 9th 2012, from 5:30pm - 6:30pm.