Acrobat Music

Nancy Wilson, one of the stylish most stylish vocalists of the last half-century dies aged 81

Nancy Wilson, one of the stylish most stylish vocalists of the last half-century dies aged 81

Nancy Wilson, one of the most stylish and admired vocalists of the last six decades has died at the age of 81. She was a singer who possessed an effortless ability to transcend the perceived boundaries between the genres, spanning jazz, R&B, gospel, sophisticated pop and easy listening styles with equal credibility, and ensuring that she was a highly successful album seller as well as having over thirty entries in the pop, R&B and adult contemporary singles charts. For her own part, she never saw herself as any particular kind of singer, describing herself a “song stylist”, influenced by the likes of Dinah Washington and Nat King Cole.

Her early jazz influences were reflected in the fact that it was the great jazz saxophonist and bandleader Cannonball Adderley who spotted her potential when she was singing with Rusty Bryant in Ohio and helped get her a deal with Capitol. From the very beginning she was an album artist, and in the first three years of her career made five albums, her jazz credentials underlined by the fact that recorded albums with pianist George Shearing and with Adderley himself. However, she eschewed the vocal acrobatics and lyrical foibles of some jazz-oriented singers, and used the precision of her intonation, the warmth and rich colours of her voice and her impeccable timing to give her interpretations of songs a unique character.

She won her first Grammy in 1964 for the R&B album “How Glad I Am” and having focused more on the jazz market in her later career, making albums with the likes of Hank Jones, Chick Corea and Ramsey Lewis, won two more Grammys for Best Jazz Vocal Album for “RSVP – Rare Songs, Very Personal” in 2005 and “Turned to Blue” in 2007.

She was a regular performer on TV and in ‘;live’ environments throughout her career, and continued performing into the new century despite advancing ill-health, her timeless beauty and charismatic stage presence aligning with her vocal technique to enable her to continue to captivate audiences, making her final appearance in 2011 at the age of 74.

Acrobat has on catalogue a double album comprising Nancy’s performances from five albums during the formative years of her career, “The Early Years 1956-62” (ADDCD3156) – it includes the tracks from “Like In Love”, recorded in 1956 when she was just 19, “Something Wonderful”, “The Swinging’s Mutual” with George Shearing, the equally jazz-oriented “Nancy Wilson With Cannonball Adderley”, and “Hello Young Lovers”. In addition, it includes an early R&B single with Rusty Bryant, two of her singles from 1960 and a couple of very jazzy ‘live’ performances from 1961.

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