Teddy Wilson

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Teddy Wilson at the piano, together with the musicians around Benny Goodman (3rd from left)

Teddy Wilson (actually Theodore Shaw Wilson ; born November 24, 1912 in Austin , Texas , † July 31, 1986 in New Britain , Connecticut ) is considered one of the most important American jazz pianists.

life and work

Teddy Wilson was born the second son of James August Wilson and Pearl Shaw. His older brother Gus became a trombonist , while Teddy began playing the piano in early childhood. Wilson then studied piano and violin at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee , where his parents taught. He also acquired some skills on the oboe and clarinet . He appeared in the jazz scene from 1929 and initially played in Chicago , among others with clarinetist Jimmie Noone and from 1931 to 1933 with Louis Armstrong . In 1933 he moved to New York City with his wife, who would later become songwriter Irene Kitchings , to play in Benny Carter's band , the Chocolate Dandies . Between 1934 and 1935, recordings were made with the Willie Bryant band.

Teddy Wilson, photograph by William P. Gottlieb

From 1935 he was a member of the Benny Goodman Trio with Benny Goodman (clarinet) and Gene Krupa ( drums ). Wilson as an African American and Goodman as a white man formed one of the first mixed bands. This band was expanded to a quartet in 1936 with Lionel Hampton ( vibraphone ). Teddy Wilson stayed with Goodman until 1939 and later appeared in the film The Benny Goodman Story (1956).

During the 1930s and 1940s Wilson recorded 50 hits with singers such as Mildred Bailey (1933-1944), Lena Horne , Billie Holiday (1937-1942) and Helen Ward . He has been involved in many record sessions with other swing greats such as Red Norvo , Lester Young , Roy Eldridge , Charlie Shavers , Buck Clayton and Ben Webster . Wilson led a big band from 1939 to 1940 (including with Ben Webster, Doc Cheatham and Al Casey ), then (until 1944) a sextet that played at the Café Society and included Bill Coleman and Edmond Hall . He then played solo or in a trio, but also took part in Benny Goodman's Broadway show Seven Lively Arts . Between 1949 and 1952 he was employed at a radio station in New York and gave summer courses at the Juilliard School .

After touring England and Scandinavia , he was employed by the CBS radio in 1954 and 1955 and played his own radio program with national distribution. In 1957 he performed at the Newport Jazz Festival and in 1958 at the World Exhibition in Brussels . Since 1960 he has been touring Europe and other parts of the world again and again (1962 with Goodman in the Soviet Union ) and also appeared on television shows. For the 1970s, his discography recorded recordings in Copenhagen, Tokyo, Munich, Nice, London and at the Montreux Jazz Festival . He continued to perform with the surviving swing stars and also frequently worked in a trio with his sons Theodore (bass) and Steven (drums).

Wilson developed a personal style as a swing pianist; he used decimal basses in the passage manner and chromatic alternating chords, over which he placed a melodic improvisation voice .

Brunswick - 78er by Teddy Wilson:
"My First Impression of You"



  • Teddy Wilson, Arie Ligthart, Humphrey van Loo: Teddy Wilson Talks Jazz. Continuum, New York 2001, ISBN 0-82-645797-5 .

See also

Web links