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Teddy Wilson Trio: Revisits the Goodman Years

Obviously, when pianist Teddy Wilson made this recording in 1980, six years before his death, he wasn’t at the peak of creativity with which he first dazzled the jazz world in the 1930s. He was merely at the advanced level of perfection that he maintained all of his life as a supreme melodist, a master of control and touch, a calm commander of rhythm.

In some of his latter-day collections, Wilson’s consistency and smoothness could create an attention-deficit problem for the listener. Here, they do not. In 18 tunes recalled from his days with Benny Goodman, he is energized, alert and resourceful. The fact that he was famously unruffled and able to lay back does not mean that Wilson lost his ability to surprise, as he does here on several tunes with flurries of left (stride)-right (arpeggio) combinations and, on “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now,” with delicious references to Fats Waller and Earl Hines. He turns what sounds like a finger bobble in the first phrase of “How High the Moon” into an opportunity for melodic invention, and he creates a fresh chromatic reduction in “Rose Room,” which he had probably played a thousand times. Ed Thigpen, impeccable on brushes throughout, and the forthright bassist Jesper Lundgaard provide inspirational assistance. Lundgaard’s solo on “St. Louis Blues” is a highlight.

This CD is a good way to make Wilson’s acquaintance, and should it lead new listeners back to his work with Goodman and his great solo and combo recordings, all the better.

Originally Published