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Teddy Wilson Talks Jazz by Teddy Wilson with Arie Lithgart & Humphrey van Loo

Although Teddy Wilson’s book was written between 1976 and 1978, its publication was unfortunately delayed by circumstances described in Alyn Shipton’s prefatory note. But better late than never! Short though it is (over 50 pages are devoted to discography and index), it is full of valuable information and quietly astute observation that matches the pianist’s manner and music.

There is, naturally, a good deal about his association with Benny Goodman and what he terms their “mutual respect,” partly a result of their common interest in classical music. He writes of his own successes with becoming modesty. The chapter entitled “Handful of Keys” is worth the book’s price for what it tells of other piano players, especially “the three great influences in [his] jazz life,” Art Tatum, Earl Hines and Fats Waller. Their qualities and differences have never, been so effectively explained before. His first major influence was Tatum, whom he met in Toledo, Ohio, and considers “the most amazing keyboard talent” he ever heard. Tatum’s ability, he adds, “goes beyond any consideration of him as a jazz pianist.”

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