Teddy WIlson: Live at the King of France Tavern

As this recording from a long-defunct Maryland venue illustrates, over the course of two brief sets laced with classic pop and jazz tunes, legendary pianist Teddy Wilson was in fine form in 1978. The first set is mostly notable for its Ellington-Strayhorn slant. Compact medleys of “Sophisticated Lady/Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “In a Sentimental Mood/Perdido” and “Lush Life/Take the ‘A’ Train” are brightened by grand solo choruses that make the most of Wilson’s still-spry right hand, or showcase the spirited interplay developed by the pianist and his triomates, bassist Bill Nelson and drummer Bill Reichenbach.

The second set finds Wilson playfully saluting another one of his contemporaries, Count Basie, by prefacing “One O’Clock Jump” with boogie-woogie rhythms until a streamlined swing pulse emerges. By contrast, a Gershwin medley that opens with “The Man I Love” inspires dramatic orchestral designs before cleverly segueing into the another highlight, Wilson’s wonderfully lighthearted take on “Love Is Here to Stay.”

Mike Joyce

A former editor of JazzTimes, Mike Joyce has written extensively on jazz, blues, country, and pop music for The Washington Post, Maryland and Washington, D.C. public television stations, and other outlets.