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Shadow Wilson

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In the midst of all the hype surrounding the new Monk/Trane release, I thought it would be a perfect time to recognize the wonderful contributions of Shadow Wilson to the world of jazz. This guy is truly one of the under-recognized figures in jazz. He may not have been pyrotechnic like Elvin or Philly Joe, but when it came to pure, unadulterated swing, few could do it like he could. He has such a beautiful, steady pulse to his playing. His ride cymbal is just about perfect, and he always seems to hit the accent at the perfect time. He just creates such a really tight pocket that is so tasteful and never overwhelming in any way. It must have been a treat to be a soloist with him behind you. A musician's musician in every sense. Its great to hear him on the finest release of this year. His drums stand out even next to Trane's flights and Monk's playfulness. Beautifuly recorded as well.

Here's to Shadow Wilson!

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Always tasty and tasteful. Mulligan Meets Monk springs to mind as another fine example of his drumming.

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He had this marvelous way of supporting the music that made you just forget about the drums in a way, and just hear the whole musical expression happening. That's really a disservice to HIM perhaps, but a huge service to the music.

Edited by jazzbo

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Not for nothing did he have such a good run in Basie's band.

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Not pyrotechnic? He sure had his technique down - there are some solo breaks that could send any drummer into the practice room.

But his focus was on swing, and he did it with taste and zest. I'm glad he is so prominent on the new Monk/Trane disc - he was recorded rather low (for my taste) on most sessions.

This man was on hundreds of sessions - one of the greatest!

Does anyone have a good photo?

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Does anyone have a good photo?

And excellent request. Don't know if I've ever seen one myself.

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He really seems to live up to his nickname here ..... this is the only one I have found so far:

Edited by mikeweil

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I recall an interview or Blindfold Test in which Charlie Persip spoke of Wilson's drum work on the Basie recording of Jimmy Mundy's "Queer Street" (1945, I believe) as being of epoch-making quality and significance -- Persip, of course, being in a good position to judge because he became a superb big-band drummer himself. Not having heard it for years, I don't recall "Queer Street" clearly myself (sadly don't have it on the shelves -- it's available in that big Columbia Basie boxed set of a few years ago, and probably elsewhere too; perhaps someone who has a copy could take a listen and report). Other Wilson/Basie recordings ("Avenue C," "The King," "Taps Miller") certainly are impressive; there's a special taughtness to Wilson's beat and fills (kind of Philly Joe-like, maybe?), a nervous intensity that speaks of bop's atmosphere seen through Swing Era eyes. Wilson also can be heard in fine form on much of the Mosaic Illinois Jacquet box, and he contributes subtly but mightily to the success of Lee Konitz's "Very Cool" (Clef). I recall being told once that cocaine was Wilson's downfall.

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Shadow is one of the giants! And he is recorded probably better than ever on that new Monk/ Trane release.

Mike Weill is right about Shadow's technique, too. Listen to his breaks on Trinkle Tinkle for a great example of his control and musicality.

I have a video clip of him playing with Louis Jordan and he takes a solo. Unfortunately the film was done when they were still not filming the sound and picture together, so what you hear is somewhat different from what you see. But, it's great to watch Shadow at work; a real master!

Great brushwork too, by the way.

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I recall being told once that cocaine was Wilson's downfall.

I heard that Shadow's body was found crammed into a trash can in some NYC alley.

If true, an ignoble end for a most noble drummer.

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Ther is a chapter on Shadow Wilson in Drummin' Men the Bebop Years that everyone would enjoy.

Fine book.

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An old post from a percussion-oriented board about Wilson on Basie's "Queer Street":

"There is a fill (actually a four bar break) by Shadow Wilson playing with Count Basie on a tune called "Queer Street" that is famous among big band drummers and that Buddy Rich thought was the greatest fill he'd ever heard..."

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I always thought Shadow Wilson's playing on Kenny Burrell's (chronologically) first Blue Note session with Frank Foster, Tommy Flanagan and Oscar Pettiford was the epitome of good taste. He and Pettiford were even greater than Kenny Clarke and Pettiford, methinks. He sounded so elastic, and powerful at the same time on all levels, soft or loud.

Drummerworld doesn't yet have a feature page, he's only on the wish list - duh, I thought I had got the photo from them - it must have been from some drummers page.

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The track Larry mentioned "Queer Street" is available on the following CD:

Count Basie and His Orchestra- 1945-1946 - Classics 934

Just listened to it. The main impression is how much it swings. Shadow Wilson seems to provide the ideal rhythmic feeling to make the tune glide forward effortlessly. Shadow gets one very short drum break that fits in perfectly with the overall sense of the piece being played.

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Maybe Wilson's career would have taken a different turn without being drafted while he was with the Eckstine band - had he been able to stay and record, he could have become the prototype bebop drummer.

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But he did record with Eckstine - he's on the first session (4/13/44) with Good Jelly Blues. I guess you mean "record more".

And let's appreciate what Art Blakey did in replacing him. What if history were different and that change never happened and Blakey's career fizzled and died in Boston.

Mike

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But he did record with Eckstine - he's on the first session (4/13/44) with Good Jelly Blues. I guess you mean "record more".

Oh - I forgot he indeed was on the first session. Yes, I'd love to have more - I'm biased, of course, as I like his playing much more than Blakey's ...

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Hey, anybody that strips his kit down as far as Shadow did in this group deserves praise. His strokes pierce through the music like very few that I have heard.

Yes, another more forward-thinking musician behind the kit could have changed this music entirely, and my mind runs wild thinking of the possibilities, but it is pretty f'ing great with Shadow back there.

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