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Northern Seascape by Jim Wilson


Northern Seascape is a gorgeous collection of 11 piano-featured instrumentals that will take you on an emotional journey from the Irish shores of the North Atlantic to a swirling snowfall in the Sierras.

Bittersweet, joyful, romantic, poignant — this audiophile-quality CD fuses folk, Celtic, pop, and classical influences into a unique melodic style that will lead you places you’ll want to revisit again and again.

Wilson is joined on the mostly-instrumental album by a bevy of top musicians, special guests, close friends and recording artists in their own right including singer-guitarist Dan Fogelberg, singer Stephen Bishop, guitarist Davey Johnstone (Elton John), guitarist Steve Lukather (Toto, Boz Scaggs), bassist Lee Sklar (James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Carole King), keyboardist Steve Porcaro (Toto, Boz Scaggs), jazz saxophonists David Sanborn and Richard Elliot, guitarist Peter White (Al Stewart), jazzster Rick Braun producing one track and playing percussion (riding the charts this year with his own #1 jazz album), jazz stalwart percussionist Lenny Castro, trumpet player and Columbia recording artist Chris Botti (Sting), Irish flutist and Uilleann pipes player Eric Rigler (the Titantic film soundtrack), and numerous others.

Wilson’s first album, Northern Seascape (he co-wrote the title tune with Fogelberg), was released on Angel-EMI Records because it bridged the gap between jazz, new age and contemporary classical music with hints of Celtic, folk and pop incorporated into the mix. It quickly became a chart-climber and best-seller.


Northern Seascape
(Jim Wilson/ Dan Fogelberg)

Eric Rigler: Uilleann Pipes, Irish Flute
Davey Johnstone: Mandolin, Mandocello
Mark Portmann: Synth
Lenny Castro: Percussion, Raybans
Jim Wilson: Piano

Django’s Hope
— for Django Crosby: the light of David’s and Jan’s Life —

Davey Johnstone: Nylon & 12 String Guitar
Mark Portmann: Synth
Charlie Morgan: Percussion
Jim Wilson: Piano

Heart of Innocence

Eric Rigler: Irish Flute
Mark Portmann: Synth
Jerrold Launer: Percussion
Mitch Forman: Synth Bass
Chris Standring: Guitar
Jim Wilson: Piano,Synth

Sierra Snowfall

Mark Portmann: Synth
Charlie Morgan: Percussion
Susie Katayama: Cello
Jim Wilson: Piano

Anna’s Blue Skies

    “But I looked out of the window too, over a large area of Amsterdam, over all the roofs and on to the horizon, which was such a pale blue that it was hard to see the dividing line. As long as this exists and I may live to see it: this sunshine, the cloudless skies… while this lasts, I can not be unhappy.
Yours, Anne Frank”

Davey Johnstone: Steel String Guitar
Brian Mann: Accordion
Mark Portmann: Synth
Mitch Forman: String Pad
Jim Wilson: Piano, Synth

Restless Sea
(Jim Wilson / Greg Phillinganes)

Greg Phillinganes: Synth, Vocals, Coheba, Indubidable inimitability
Lenny Castro: Percussion
Jerrold Launer: Synth
Bret A. Hunta: Whale song
Jim Wilson: Piano

Mon Ami Eternel
— for our Forever Friend, Claude Gaudette—

Dave Koz: Soprano Sax
Robbie Buchanan: Strings/ Synth
Mark Portmann: Synth
Susie Katayama: Cello
Roger LaRocque: Percussion
Davey Johnstone: Nylon & Steel String Guitar
Eric Rigler: Uilleann Pipes
Scott Frankfurt: Synth
Jim Wilson: Piano


Lenny Castro: Percussion
Mark Portmann: Synth
Jim Wilson: Midi Piano, Synth

Walk Away Renee
(Michael Brown, Robert Calilli, Anthony Sansone)

Mark Portmann: Synth
Susie Katayama: Cello
Lenny Castro: Percussion
Brian Mann: Accordian
Jim Wilson: Piano

Paul’s Theme
—for my Bro, Paul Wilson—

Jerrold Launer: Synth
Susie Katayama: Cello
Mark Portmann: Synth
Jim Wilson: Piano

Laura’s World
–to Laura, Blue Roses, and to taking chances.–

Jim Wilson: Midi Piano

All Songs Written and Published by Jim Wilson, Velvet Vista Music (ASCAP) © 1997, except “Northern Seascape”: Jim Wilson, Velvet Vista Music (ASCAP) and Dan Fogelberg, Sacred Circle Music, (ASCAP); “Restless Sea”: Jim Wilson, Velvet Vista Music (ASCAP) and Greg Phillinganes, King Arthur Music, (ASCAP); Intro for “Mon Ami Eternel”: Jim Wilson, Velvet Vista (ASCAP), Dave Koz, Just Koz Entertainment, Inc (ASCAP).; “Walk Away Renee”, © 1966: Michael Brown, Robert Calilli, Anthony Sansone, Alley Music Corp, Trio Music Co. Inc. (BMI).

Produced and Arranged by Jim Wilson, except “Paul’s Theme” and “Mon Ami” (intro): Produced by Jim Wilson / Jerrold Launer, (“Paul’s Theme”: arranged by Jerrold Launer); “Sierra Snowfall”: string arrangement: Mark Portmann/Jim Wilson. Recorded and Edited by Jerrold Launer at TunaTones Recording Studio, Sherman Oaks, CA; also recorded by Pete Mills at Black Barn Recording Studio, London, England (tracks 2 &4); Scott Erickson at Robbie’s Record Ranch, Studio City (track 7). Synth Programming by Scott Frankfurt, Mitch Forman Mixed by Doug Rider Mastered by Bernie Becker Art Direction / Graphic Design by Dee Louzginov/ Eclectica Media Cover / Booklet Photography by Leslie Barton Booklet / Tray Card Photography by Jim Hagopian / Ireland Photography by David Mayschak / Piano Tuning by Tuna Breath/ L. A. Piano Services

Dave Koz appears courtesy Capitol Records

Hearty Thanks to the truly incredible players/ artists/ friends who lended their time and talent to help bring this dream to life: Davey Johnstone, Dave Koz, Robbie Buchanan, Lenny Castro, Mark Portmann, Susie Katayama, Eric Rigler, Charlie Morgan, Greg Phillinganes, Mitch Forman, Brian Mann and Chris Standring. Portly thanks to Eric (the Pedestrian-Douser) Johnson at Yamaha (Concert Artist Division), Dee @ Eclectica Media for your tireless support, Kevin Kaiser, Mitch Zelezny at O’Henry’s for the happenin’ cable, and especially to Doug (the Glideman) Rider- your focus and commitment astound me. My deepest gratitude to Dena, James, Spider, Zobie, Chris, Sarah Jane, Tia, J.J. & Valy, Anne Do, Allison, Mitch & Suzanne, Scott & Jody, Cherish, Bill & Kim, Doug & Angela, Hank & Jackie, Billy & Robin, Debra & Rick, Dennis & Bobbie, David & Kimmer, Margaret & Jamie and the rest of my wonderful friends whose love and support mean the world to me.

A Laurel and Hearty thanks to Jerrold Launer for your indefatigable spirit and invaluable musical input. Couldn’ta done it without you!

Massive Thanks to the artists / friends whose encouragement over the years has inspired me to create art that I would be proud to share with you: Dan Fogelberg, Chick Corea, Paul McCartney, Lionel Richie, David Crosby, Jackson Browne, J. D. Souther, Wayne Shorter, George and Shannon…. To Mom, Dad, Andi, Jenny, David, K.K., Devon, Trevor and B.J. — thanks from the bottom of my heart for believing in me. I’m so lucky to have such a great family… And, of course to Jason– You da man!!… …My sincere thanks to all who bought this album — this music comes from my heart and I hope that it finds meaning for you. And most importantly, humble gratitude to the Creator for giving me the opportunity to be a channel for your expression.

This is dedicated to my brothers Paul and Claude, you’re both still very much alive in my heart.

Behind The Music

“Northern Seascape” ~  I had written the gist of this tune not long before my 3rd or 4th trip up to Dan Fogelberg’s ranch in Colorado. On previous occasions, we had played each other stuff we were working on, and I couldn’t wait to play this for him. I knew he’d relate to it harmonically. Sure enough, one evening in his studio I played it for him and he said, “That’s really beautiful. Play it again.” I did — a couple of times, then he said he’d like to write a lyric to it. (Gee, let me think about it, Dan!) I told him that would be great, but the B section would need a new melody, since I was playing the melody in the bass with my left hand and we’d need a different melody to hang a lyric on in that section. He had me play it over and over and he started singing a counter-melody to the melody I was playing in the bass. We both knew that the two melodies worked great together and played with it for about a half an hour. It was getting pretty late so we shelved it for the eve. Unfortunately, he had a lot of songs of his own he was trying to finish at the time and never got to writing a lyric for it. But the counter-melody that he came up with would later turn out to work really great as an Irish flute line (played by Eric Rigler.)

“Django’s Hope” ~  Once I was visiting David and Jan Crosby at their ranch in Southern California. It was at a time when David was going through a really rocky period health-wise and Jan was pregnant with their first child, Django. I wrote this on David’s piano as sort of a statement of hope for their son-to-be. Django is (deservedly) the light of their life.

“Heart Of Innocence” ~  When we were finishing recording Northern Seascape, I was listening to some rough mixes with Jerrold, my engineer. We listened to the 4 most serious songs in a row (before they were fully produced). I remember thinking, “Man, this is going to be one somber album…” It was really late and I left Jerrold — who was completing some rough mixes. As I dozed off I remember thinking that I really needed another tune to balance out the album — something kind of lighthearted. Hours later, I had this weird dream that I was driving in my car listening to this beautiful melody on the radio. When it finished, the DJ came on and said, “That was the latest from Sheryl Crow. Isn’t that beautiful?” I remember thinking, “Man, this guy’s on crack. That was SO not a Sheryl Crow song.” About that time, the alarm clock went off. I gradually realized that I’d been writing a song and slowly tried to bring it into consciousness. Once I finally felt I had a handle on it, I got up and started fleshing it out on my little dinky keyboard I keep by my bed. I went into the studio to get Jerrold (who’d pulled an all-nighter) and played it for him. He loved it and we both realized it was just the tune that the album needed.

“Sierra Snowfall” ~  I’ve always been amazed (and amused) at how song ideas can come. The idea can come, then sort of germinate for a while, then just emerge from (seemingly) nowhere. A couple of years ago, someone was telling me about a book that they heard was being made into a movie. She thought my music would be perfect for it. When she told me the title of the book, I instantly got an image of someone standing in a beautiful forest on an overcast winter’s day as the snow starts falling gently down. I love days like that and I felt inspired to write something that would be appropriate for that image. Cut to a couple of weeks later, when I’d pretty much forgotten about that. I’d gone to meet someone at Segue Music in Burbank. Everyone was at lunch and I sort of had the place to myself. I went to the piano and without any thought at all, my fingers played the opening figure to what I instantly knew was the theme for that snowy-scene I’d envisioned. As it turned out, there’d been a miscommunication and the person I’d gone to meet never showed, so I ended up finishing off this song on that Yamaha console. …Oh yeah, the book (and subsequent movie) that inspired this song is called “Snow Falling on Cedars”.

“Anna’s Blue Skies” ~  A couple of years ago I was going through what I thought was a particularly trying time of my life. I was at someone’s house and they had this montage on their wall. At the very center of it was this particularly moving quote by Anne Frank that brought tears to my eyes. It drove home the point that the significance you give to problems are always a matter of perspective. It also served to remind me how easy it is to forget how much pleasure and happiness can be found in the simple things. She wrote in her diary: “But I looked out of the window too, over a large area of Amsterdam, over all the roofs and on to the horizon, which was such a pale blue that it was hard to see the dividing line. As long as this exists and I may live to see it: this sunshine, the cloudless skies… while this lasts, I cannot be unhappy.” This song emerged as I was “sautéing” in that sentiment and I hope conveys at least a small measure of her appreciation for simplicity juxtaposed against the poignancy of her situation.

“Restless Sea” ~  This song developed from that B minor pattern. I think I just sat down at the piano with the deliberate intention to write a tune with a relentless 1/16th note pattern. (Actually, I called it Relentless for a bit, then Relentless Sea, then Rennetless Cheese, then finally just Cheese.)

…Not really. But that’s how folklore begins, you know?

One day I was putting the final touches on it in the studio and my buddy Greg Phillinganes came over to put a string line on the track. When we were listening to the playback, he started singing this cool melody over the B minor section. I was so knocked out by the new dimension that it added to the tune that we hurriedly set up mikes and had him sing it just before he left. I love how his voice and the french horn weave together. …This is one of my favorite tunes to play.

(Footnote: On the album, at the very end of the song, the last thing you hear is Lenny Castro’s finger-slide riff on the conga. Just underneath that, you can hear a “whale song”. That is in fact a way-slowed-down, reverb-heavy sample of my cat Tuna (OK, Tuna Breath if you must know his full name) meowing. …But let’s just keep this a secret between you and me, OK? He was under contract to another label at the time.)

“Mon Ami Eternel” ~  This was written as a tribute to my friend Claude Gaudette, who in his most unfortunate passing a few years ago of a heart attack (at the age of 37!) reminded me that you never really know when you’re going to get that tap on the shoulder, so you’d damned-well better be working toward your dream–whatever it is. I got together a few of Claude’s friends to play on the track, which was a very moving experience unto itself. The creation of the intro was kind of an on-the-spot deal:

Dave Koz was also a dear friend of Claude’s. Dave is a truly great person and the second he found out about the project, he volunteered to be a part of it. Anyway, I had this harmony idea in mind for him to play. I was going to have him play a third below the Uilleann pipes (Irish Bagpipe) line that Eric Rigler was doing in the choruses. The second Dave came in and started playing the line I’d written, I knew that my idea somehow sounded better in my head and that it really wasn’t working. I decided to have him play the melody and figured I’d then have to make a painful choice between the Uilleann pipe and Dave’s sax. It was only as he was recording it that we realized what a great, unique blend the two instruments made.

Then later, as he was packing up to go, I got this idea for an intro. I asked him to take his sax in the studio and just blow — basing an improvisation on the harmony that I’d had him try earlier. We turned out the lights and I told him to “play this one for Claude”. He went and just blew from his heart for about 10 minutes. It was really great. Then after he left, Jerrold (my engineer) and I began the process of distilling what he’d done. We took the beginning of a riff here, and married it to the end of a riff there. We took an elongated note from elsewhere and inserted it between two other riffs to make a whole new phrase. The rest of the track was then built underneath that — pads, cymbal swells, strings, cellos, etc. I’d never composed anything like that before, but I think the result was pretty special and that Claude would have been proud.

(P.S. The song’s title refers to the way Claude always signed his letters to his close friends, “Your Forever Friend, Claude”

“Illuminaria” ~  This song came to me during a really creative period a few years back. Song ideas were happening so fast and furious that I would quickly record a cassette of the idea, then move on the the next. Months later, I’d actually forgotten about this song, then I found a tape one day that was incorrectly labeled “Keith Jarret”. I started playing it and really liked the tune — not even recognizing it yet. I remember thinking this isn’t Keith Jarret, but it’s really neat. Then I heard the pianist stop and mumble something. Very peculiar — even for Keith! I soon realized it was in fact mine and I put the finishing touches on it. I love playing the Cmi to Fmi riff.

“Walk Away Renee” ~  One of my favorite songs of all time. It absolutely captures a sweet sorrow; the nobility in being big enough to let someone go their own way — even when it kills you inside.

As far as the inclusion of this song on Northern Seascape goes… I had the good fortune of getting to become good friends with one of my favorite artists, Dan Fogelberg. During one of my visits to his ranch in the mountains, I discovered that he loved that song as well. He even dug up the vinyl record by the Left Banke and we played it several times. Later, just before my next trip to his ranch, I decided to work up a rendition of it — if nothing else, just to get a smile out of him. In my arrangement, I tried to slow it down a bit and draw out even more of the sweet essence of the song. I think it works wonderfully with the direction of the other songs in the album.

“Paul’s Theme” ~  A song for my sweet little brother Paul whose passing at the tender age of 23 left my family and me shattered. Losing someone so young and full of promise is quite simply devastating. This song is a meager attempt to weave together just a few of the many bittersweet elements that he embodied to me.

“Laura’s World” ~  A number of years ago, I took an acting class and was supposed to learn a monolog from “The Glass Menagerie”. As it turned out, I was so inspired by reading the script that I wrote this song instead of learning the monolog (…so much for my becoming the next Marlon Brando.. or even Joe Piscapo for that matter..) The sentiment of this song about pushing ourselves to take chances. I like the sweet punctuation it provides as the final song on Northern.


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