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Sun, 11.24.1912

Teddy Wilson, Pianist born

Teddy Wilson

This date marks the birth of Teddy Wilson, a Black jazz musician, in 1912.

Born in Austin, TX, Wilson began his career in the late 1920s in various Midwest bands. He ended up in Chicago, where he substituted for Earl Hines occasionally and made his first records with Louis Armstrong. He held his own in duets with Art Tatum in the early 1930s, and soon joined Benny Carter's band in New York.

From 1935 to 1939, Wilson played on the sessions that resulted in Billie Holiday's greatest work. He joined Benny Goodman in 1936, breaking the color barrier by performing on an equal footing with Goodman in trios, quartets, and sextets. In 1939, he formed his own band and then formed a sextet, which reflected Wilson's exacting musical standards. Highly in demand as a pianist and arranger, he worked prolifically into the early 1940s.

As stride piano was fading, Wilson developed his own style that kept the contrapuntal relationship between the right and left hands, but softened the rhythm function and reduced the melodic density of the right hand.

Wilson rivaled Art Tatum and Earl Hines as one of the most important pianists of the swing era. He continued to record, teach, and tour in the decades to come.

Teddy Wilson died July 31, 1986, in New Britain, Connecticut, after a three-year bout with cancer.

Jazz: A History of the New York Scene
Samuel Charters and Leonard Kunstadt
(Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y., 1962)

To Become a Musician or Singer


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