Vocalist and Pianist Kalil Amar Wilson has become one of the most potent and promising musicians of this generation. Gifted with a powerful yet nuanced voice and a technical versatility that positions Kalil comfortably in jazz, R&B, pop, and even classical, Wilson has earned high marks from the music press and has captivated audiences from Barcelona to Berkeley, Monterey to Moscow, with performances that defy easy categorization. Wilson’s bright re-imaginings of jazz standards and originals are well-informed by the rich history of great jazz singing, while melding seamlessly with their heartfelt, eclectic stylings.
An Oakland native, Kalil’s early life was filled with music. As a student, Kalil was mentored by the Oakland Youth Chorus and the Young Musicians Program at UC Berkeley, where she studied with renouned and respected Bay Area local Bass Baritone Mr. David Livingston Tiger. Kalil went on to earn a spot in UCLA’s Voice and Opera program, performing classical music, while achieving an honors degree in a field Kalil loved: ethnomusicology. “I was looking for that meaning I had encountered as a child, the idea of music as something that’s not isolated from the audience, that could move people and build a community.”
After winning numerous classical competitions and singing lead opera roles and concerts, Kalil gravitated back to jazz. “I started to realize that many of the musical styles I had heard when I was young are really forms of jazz,” Kalil says. “They may not be called jazz, but they contain all the same forces that are at work in jazz. They are all conversations, people working things out within a melodic and harmonic framework.”
Encouraged in this pursuit by jazz legend Kenny Burrell, Kalil recorded and released their first album, Easy To Love with the Berkeley Everett Trio. The album showcases Wilson’s unique renditions of beloved jazz evergreens like “Nature Boy” and “Day by Day,” plus heartfelt, soulful interpretations of R&B favorites like “Song for You” and “If It’s Magic.”
Listening to Kalil sing jazz favorites, soulful ballads, lush originals, and even operatic arias, you might start to wonder: is this the same voice? From the Metropolitan Opera to Walt Disney Hall, throughout Europe and the U.S., Kalil Wilson has captivated audiences and music critics alike with their vocal prowess and versatility. Kalil’s pursuit has taken Wilson far, having shared stages with luminaries like Kenny Burrell, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, Esperanza Spaulding, and Omara Portuondo. Kalil’s bright re-imaginings of jazz standards and originals bow to the rich history of great jazz singing while melding seamlessly with their heartfelt, eclectic stylings. While Kalil is home in the Bay Area, jazz lovers have the chance to be stirred by her unique interpretations and amazing, velvety voice.
Kalil’s second full length album, Time Stops, was recorded in 2018 and featured a number of soulful and groovy original compositions arranged and co-composed by pianist and teacher Dan Marschak. The album was widely hailed on the Bay Areas own KCSM and propelled Kalil on a series of tours across Russia.
Since touring and visiting Europe and Asia extensively in 2016-20, Kalil’s musical focus has broadened to include an emphasis on vocal pedagogy, as well as a systematic approach to piano for vocalists, instructing courses and workshops as a member of the voice and piano faculty at the California Jazz Conservatory.