Nov 24, 2012
One hundred years ago today, Theodore Shaw “Teddy” Wilson was born in Austin, Texas. Frequently noted as the most significant pianist of the swing era, Wilson is perhaps best known in the jazz canon for becoming one of the first black musicians to publicly and prominently appear with white musicians -- in this case, with the Benny Goodman Trio (with drummer Gene Krupa) in 1935.
Music producer/talent scout John Hammond heard Wilson late at night on the radio in New York and recommended him to bandleader Benny Carter, who drove out to Chicago to hear Wilson in person and asked him to join his band.
Hammond also introduced Wilson to a second musician that would influence his career -- vocalist Billie Holiday, with whom he recorded a series for Brunswick under his own name (Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra) between 1935 and 1939, which included mass of jazz heavyweights including Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster, Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, Charlie Shavers, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, and Pee Wee Russell, among others.
The latter half of Wilson’s career found him as an instructor at the Juilliard School of Music (where he taught Dick Hyman, among others) in the 1950s, several reunion tours with Benny Goodman (including a trip to the USSR in 1962), and recording abroad in Stockholm, the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, and Japan.
WKCR-FM, the student-run, non-commercial radio station affiliated with Columbia University is in the midst of a 96-hour broadcast, covering all areas of Wilson’s recorded career, focusing in on his work as a leader and soloist. Check it out here.