Nancy Wilson: 'Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderley'

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The cover of Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderley


A.B. SPELLMAN, National Endowment for the Arts: Hello, I'm A.B. Spellman and if you have questions about how a vocalist functions in a jazz ensemble, this album could answer all of them. Murray Horwitz, tell us what the record is and why it sounds so great.

MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: A.B., it's the eponymous — I've always wanted to use that word — the eponymous CD called Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderley, and that's a terrific point you made. It's hard to define what a jazz vocalist is. It's hard to pin it down, what makes one artist a song stylist and another a jazz singer, and very often people are both. But in 1961, Julian Cannonball Adderley and the young singer from Ohio — Nancy Wilson — showed how effectively a vocalist could function as part of the jazz band.


SPELLMAN: You can hear that the whole sound is collaboration.

HORWITZ: That's it. Everything fits. Just the sound, the sheer sound of Nancy Wilson's voice, Cannonball Adderley's alto saxophone, and the cornet of his brother Nat Adderely. They all go together like a great dish somebody's prepared, where all of the flavors just feel wonderful in your mouth.


SPELLMAN: And it swings.

HORWITZ: It swings gently, easily, but with a lot of spirit. You know, I think that Cannonball Adderley quintets are really among the greatest jazz groups of all time, and this was one of the best editions, with drummer Louis Hayes, bassist Sam Jones, and pianist Joe Zawinul.


HORWITZ: You know, a jazz trumpeter said to me one time, "If it sounds like Miles Davis but it's not, it's Nat Adderely."

SPELLMAN: And you get the great young Nancy Wilson. She really was something fresh and new — her phrasing, her diction, her dynamic range.

HORWITZ: Right, the way she goes from very soft to very loud and back again. She's a major artist of this music, and we must note, the host of NPR's Jazz Profiles. So, it's a pleasure to salute her as a colleague, too.

SPELLMAN: The name of the CD is Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderley. It's on the Capitol label.

HORWITZ: The NPR Basic Jazz Record Library is support, in part, by the Wallace Reader's Digest Fund. For NPR Jazz, I'm Murray Horwitz.

SPELLMAN: And I'm A.B. Spellman.

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