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The Great American Songbook

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Album Review

The Great American Songbook has many top-drawer interpreters, but Nancy Wilson is rarely spoken of in the same breath as Ella Fitzgerald or Dinah Washington or Frank Sinatra or Mel Tormé. The reason lies less with her talents, which are sizeable, and more with her orientation, which fits the show tunes concept of putting the song across with precise diction as well as emotion instead of the jazz vocal tradition of personalizing a song. Those who know only Wilson's crossover work and think she intrudes in the field of vocal jazz should simply listen to her 1959 performance of "On the Street Where You Live," where she often varies notes and tempo but preserves the essential ebullience of the song intact — an excellent musical performance combined with an excellent reading of a classic standard. That song is only one of the treasures present on the two-disc set The Great American Songbook, one in a loose series of three Capitol compilations to compile Wilson's late-'50s and early-'60s prime, the others focusing on blues ballads and lost love. There is a lot of music to wade through (more than twice as much as the other volumes in the series), but the compilers ably mix up the proceedings, balancing small-group performances that have a loose touch from all involved with large-band spectaculars featuring impeccable arrangements (often by masters of the form Billy May or Gerald Wilson).


Born: February 20, 1937 in Chillicothe, OH

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Diva Nancy Wilson was among contemporary music's most stylish and sultry vocalists; while often crossing over into the pop and R&B markets -- and even hosting her own television variety program -- she remained best known as a jazz performer, renowned for her work alongside figures including Cannonball Adderley and George Shearing. Born February 20, 1937, in Chillicothe, OH, Wilson first attracted notice performing the club circuit in nearby Columbus; she quickly earned a growing reputation among...
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The Great American Songbook, Nancy Wilson
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