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Teddy Wilson: In Copenhagen

Chris Mosey By

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Teddy Wilson was a supremely elegant pianist, born in an age in which the music meant more than the image of its performers. Mrs Pearl Wilson's son Theodore was also an extremely polite and courteous individual. So it came as something of a suprise when, late in life, referring to rock music, he said, "It's like the whole earth vomiting." He ventured the opinion in Teddy Wilson Talks Jazz, a book of reminiscences told to Dutch Swing College Band guitarist Ari Ligthart, and which was published after his death. "The whole earth is sick, and it vomits," Teddy added, just to make sure we got his drift. Let others jazz up Beatles numbers or add electric instruments to their line-ups, Wilson always stuck doggedly with what he knew best: swing.

This album, recorded in 1979 at the Slukefter Club in Copenhagen's Tivoli amusement park, features the pianist romping joyously through songs from the 1930s and 40s and paying a five-number tribute to Duke Ellington. It's as if rock had never existed. Let alone the mind-numbing horrors of rap and techno which were just around the corner.

Wilson was no bigot. He paid attention to developments in jazz, describing Charlie Parker as "one of the truly creative giants of jazz." Yet he himself never dabbled in bebop. After the seminal role he had played in jazz history, he no doubt felt he had earned a right to rest on his laurels. Remember, Wilson had been enormously influential as a pianist, forging a style that blended and transcended those of Hines, Tatum and Waller. He had gone on to put together all those marvellous small pick-up bands that backed Billie Holiday on her early recording dates and to become—with Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa—a member of the first interracial group of the Swing era.

In the postwar era Wilson tended to be written off by critics blindly chasing that ephemeral thing called 'progress.' This album makes you realize how unfair and excluding that yardstick is. Within the confines of his repertoire, Teddy Wilson was always capable of making you sit up and take notice.

The pace is unrelenting and, amazingly, the set was totally unrehearsed. That didn't faze the unflappable Ed Thigpen, by then domiciled in Copenhagen after his years with Oscar Peterson, but it gave local bassist Hugo Rasmussen a few nervous moments. Looking back on the session, he says, "If I made a mistake, he didn't complain."

Wilson's vigorous, two-fisted playing belies his years. The title of the last number, "S'Wonderful," sums up it up. This album is a marvellous escape from the present age. And if nostalgia's a thing of the past, then so what?

Track Listing: Honeysuckle Rose; I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter; Medley, I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling and Ain't Misbehavin'; St Louis Blues; Medley, In A Sentimental Mood and Mood Indigo; Perdido; Satin Doll; Take The A Train; Body And Soul; Basin Street Blues; Avalon; Moonglow; I'll Remember April; Who Cares?; Someone To Watch Over Me; S'Wonderful.

Personnel: Teddy Wilson: piano; Hugo Rasmussen: bass; Ed Thigpen: drums.

Title: In Copenhagen | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Storyville Records

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