For decades Miss Nancy Wilson has been sending shivers through listeners with her interpretations of jazz and pop lyrics. The songs are classics, starting with “Guess Who I Saw Today,” which she stamped with her signature storytelling in her first solo recording session in 1959.
On Friday night Wilson is appearing at the Music Center at Strathmore, an evening cosponsored with Blues Alley, and after she finishes---maybe “How Glad I Am”--she will present two gowns to the Smithsonian. The formal gowns, one from her Grammy winning night in 2007, Awards, will be displayed at Strathmore before the concert.
After the special event, the donations will go to the National Museum of American History, which houses the world’s largest museum collection of jazz materials. This month the museum is celebrating Jazz Appreciation Month, and who better than Wilson to be a part of the salute to jazz.
“I think of her as one of the most distinctive song stylists of our era. There is no one else who sounds like her,” said John Edward Hasse, the museum’s curator of American music. “She has great versatility, a remarkable range of intensity, clear respect for the lyrics and impeccable musicianship.”
Wilson’s own music appreciation began at home in Ohio listening to Billy Eckstine, Nat King Cole, LaVerne Baker, Ruth Brown and Louis Armstrong. She began singing professionally at age 15. In 1959 she moved to New York and within six weeks had signed with Capitol Records. Her 1962 album with Cannonball Adderley is still considered a classic. During her time with Capitol, her sales were second only to the Beatles. She has the astonishing output of 70 albums.
Not only through her music has Wilson, now 74, added to the chronicles of jazz but she was also the host of “Jazz Profiles” on National Public Radio for almost a decade and promoted jazz education through projects with the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in Pittsburgh.
Lauded by other singers and her fans, Wilson has won 3 Grammys in the last 4 decades. She won for “How Glad I Am” in 1964; “R.S. V.P (Rare Songs, Very Personal”)Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2005 and “Turned to Blue” in 2007.
And she rarely leaves the stage without singing this warning to the fellows: