Nancy Wilson’s musical style is so diverse that it is hard to classify. Over the years her repertoire has included pop style ballads, jazz and blues, show tunes and well known standards. Critics have described her as “a jazz singer,” “a blues singer,” “a pop singer,” and “a cabaret singer.” Still others have referred to her as “a storyteller,” “a professor emeritus of body language,” “a consummate actress,” and “the complete entertainer.” Then who is this song stylist (that’s the descriptive title she prefers) whose voice embodies the nuances of gospel, blues, and jazz? Her colleague and long time friend Joe Williams used to call her “the thrush from Columbus.”
After years with Capitol Records, during many of which she was second in sales only to the Beatles, surpassing even Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, the Beach Boys, and early idol Nat King Cole, the business had changed providing Nancy Wilson with an opportunity to seek out projects that allowed her to express the maturity that she acquired throughout her then 55 years of life.
One of the more interesting albums from her later period came about in 1991, when singer Barry Manilow was given a sheath full of lyrics written by the late Johnny Mercer which the great songwriter had never put to music. Manilow added melodies and chose Ms. Wilson to sing the resultant songs.
In 1995, when National Public Radio (NPR) was looking for an articulate voice with both name value and jazz credibility to host their Jazz Profiles series, Nancy Wilson was the obvious choice. Not only did she know the music, but she knew the artists personally. Her first profile for this program was the 75th birthday tribute to Charlie Parker.
In the late 1990s, Nancy Wilson teamed up with MCG Jazz, a social enterprise supporting the youth education programs of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, a nonprofit, minority-directed, arts and learning organization located in Pittsburgh, PA.
Three years later Nancy Wilson gave MCG Jazz and the world of music another gift – R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal) – which was released on August 25, 2004. Receiving gifts in return, R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal) won the 2005 GRAMMY® Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album and the 2005 NAACP Image Award for Best Jazz Artist. (This was her second GRAMMY®, the first being in 1964 for “How Glad I Am,” and her second Image Award, the first being in 1986.) Other honors Nancy Wilson has received include a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, streets and days dedicated in her name, honorary doctorate degrees, and in 2005, the UNCF Trumpet Award celebrating African-American achievement, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP in Chicago, and Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Award.
Her third CD on the MCG Jazz label, Turned To Blue (released in August 2006), brought her a third Grammy award. While Ms. Wilson has “retired from touring,” she still continues to perform select engagements and, happily, to record. In addition, she has just taken on the role of Honorary Spokesperson for the National Minority AIDS Council and is working very hard to raise AIDS awareness in the African-American communities.
Yoshi's Jazz Club and Japanese Restaurant Website
Please click here for the Culturekiosque feature on the Johnny Mercer Centenary.
Detailed schedule information:
8:00 pm & 10 pm