Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gerald Wilson's Nancy Jo: Overview Of Major Recordings

Gerald Wilson wrote tunes named for each of his children, and Nancy Jo, of course, is one of his daughters. The original arrangement of this fast twelve-bar blues variation was recorded in 1962 on Wilson's album Moment Of Truth, which is one of his orchestra's classic “middle period” albums from the Pacific Jazz label; many consider this era to be the peak of his arranging and recording career. That is the arrangement that the Essentially Ellington program has issued this year, and that the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra played during the Essentially Ellington 2013 evening concert. That said, Wilson has recorded this tune at least twice since then. Wilson's back catalogue includes a much faster 2003 recording from Wilson's New York New Sound, as well as a 1995 recording from Wilson's State Street Sweet. The 2003 recording features not only a faster tempo but also much-extended solo sections, which should suffice to make clear that neither the original pace nor the original solo sections are sacrosanct. The 1995 recording tears through the tune at the same breakneck speed, but does not open up the solo sections. Bear in mind that these are new, modern recordings from a man who was writing and arranging for the major big bands of the 1930's. The breadth and endurance of Wilson's career—which is still ongoing—is absolutely staggering.

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