Imagine you’re a Greek soldier marching into battle in the front row of a phalanx. Or an Egyptian woman putting on makeup before attending an evening party with your husband. Or a Celtic monk scurrying away with the Book of Kells during a Viking invasion. Welcome to the other side of history, the 99% of ordinary people whose names don’t make it into the history books—but whose lives are no less fascinating than the great leaders whose names we all know.
In the late '30s and early '40s, pianist Teddy Wilson was a big deal in the land of jazz. He had many opportunities to perform as a sideman, and eventually got his breaks. These sessions showcase of variety of his efforts with big bands, large ensembles, small groups, and a singer named Billie Holiday. Though none of his own compositions are credited ("Big Apple" should be,) he certainly had a hand in the arrangements, and was given space to play quite a bit of piano. The Hep label has generously provided 23 selections with Wilson and bandmates including stalwarts Hot Lips Page, Lester Young, Freddie Green, Red Norvo and Pee Wee Russell, as well as backing trombonist Benny Morton's All Stars. There are two takes of "Ain't Misbehavin'," "Just a Mood" (Blue Mood,) "When You're Smiling," and "I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me" for contrast sake. The sound reproduction of these vintage performances is excellent, and this one can easily be recommended to both fan and novice.
It was much to soul singer Spanky Wilson's surprise – she didn't realize she had had such an impact – when British multi-instrumentalist/producer Will Holland contacted her in her Los Angeles home in 2004, professing his love of her music and wondering if she'd collaborate with him. Still, she agreed to go the studio, and together they did two songs, "Don't Joke with a Hungry Man" and "When You're Through," for Holland's solo project, Quantic, on the album Mishaps Happening. That collaboration worked out so well that they decided to make an entire record together, this time with Holland's full band, the Quantic Soul Orchestra. Wilson's lovely voice is the centerpiece of I'm Thankful, and it does show a bit of its age, but only in the best of ways, deepening it and giving it an added measure of credibility and authenticity while still preserving its expressiveness and strength. Attesting to Wilson's tremendous ability is the fact that the record is very intimately and sparsely produced, making it seem as if the singer is almost in the room right with the you, the sometimes raspy and breathy line endings audible in that professional, practiced way.