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Nancy Wilson ‎– Something Wonderful

Five months after her debut album was recorded and one month after it was released, Nancy Wilson was back in Capitol Studios with Billy May to record the follow-up in May 1960. Despite Like In Love not charting in the US, it sold over 75,000 copies, hit number 1 in Australia and Capitol still believed they had a star on their hands. The label again tapped their top production staff and musicians, beginning with A&R head Dave Cavanaugh co-producing. At age 23, Wilson not only avoided the sophomore slump but recorded what AllMusic calls one of the best, tastiest and “most jazz-oriented sessions” of her prolific career, Something Wonderful.


Nancy Wilson

Something Wonderful

Capitol Records – T-1440 (mono), ST-1440 (stereo)

1960

The whole jazz singer/song stylist debate is so much a part of Wilson’s story that it’s impossible to ignore. Interestingly, it seems that Wilson herself largely drove the narrative of being a song stylist to control her brand and avoid being pigeonholed. “I was already a success before I ever left and went to New York, looking for, specifically, John Levy, Capitol Records,” Wilson noted in a 2010 interview for the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program. “I was basically known as jazz, but I wasn’t a jazz singer. I was singing pop… I liked the people that (John Levy) managed, that he handled, and I knew that I would fit in… I wouldn’t be working in a jazz room. I would be working in a nice supper club, and John saw that too. That was a way for him to move on up and do something different, to get out of jazz rooms and get into the Coconut Grove with a singer.”

When Wilson was still moonlighting the clubs while working days as a secretary at the New York Institute of Technology, the song that captured the attention of her future (and only) manager, John Levy, was “Guess Who I Saw Today.” “He called me the next day and said, ‘We’re going into the studio, and you’re going to record four demos with [pianist] Ray Bryant,’” Wilson noted in a 2010 JazzWax interview. Levy became her manager and helped get her signed to Capitol on the strength of those demos.

Columbus Dispatch June 14, 1960
Columbus Dispatch June 14, 1960

Since Wilson’s first record Like In Love was selling so briskly in Australia, Levy sent her there to perform for three months, during which time Something Wonderful was released in October. While in Australia, she corresponded with drummer Kenny Dennis, whom she’d met when he was playing with Sonny Stitt. When she returned to the states in December, she married Dennis in Los Angeles before she even got back to New York. A move to California quickly followed. The marriage lasted ten years, but Wilson remained in California for the rest of her life.

September 19, 1960 Dispatch
September 19, 1960 Dispatch

Wilson worked quickly in the studio, and Something Wonderful was no exception. “It took only three days to make an album then,” Wilson noted in the JazzWax interview. “I’d hear the chart for the first time at 8 pm on a Wednesday night or whenever we’d record. The band would run it down. That would be the first time I heard how it would sound. Then we’d record three songs a night over three days.” Something Wonderful took four days for Nancy, plus three days of overdubs for the big band.

Recording began on May 5, 1960 at Capitol with Jack Marshall on guitar, Milt Raskin on piano, Joe Comfort on bass and Shelly Manne on drums. If Dreams Come True, Something Happens To Me and album opener Teach Me Tonight were tackled on day one. The second session on May 10 included the notable addition of Ben Webster on tenor sax. I Wish You Love, Stormy Monday and The Great City were cut on day two and 23-year-old Wilson handled the relatively high-profile veteran musicians with characteristic poise. “There was a lot of laughter and a lot of fun,” she noted in the liner notes of the 2004 CD reissue. “You know, when you’ve been working as long as I had - thank God I was able to take it in stride.”

On May 11, tracks for This Time The Dream’s On Me, He’s My Guy and Guess Who I Saw Today were laid down. Guess Who I Saw Today would become her signature song. Nick Deriso wrote that Guess Who I Saw Today is “delivered with elegant, breathy defiance by this ageless but underappreciated jazz singer. The guitar, perfectly circular, delivering sharp rebukes and knowing winks, is by Jack Marshall.”

October 12, 1960 Dispatch
October 12, 1960 Dispatch

Three more tracks were recorded without Ben Webster at the final primary session on May 12 - Something Wonderful Happens, What A Little Moonlight Can Do and I’m Gonna Laugh You Right Out Of My Life. Critic Pete Welding said of Wilson’s rendition of What A Little Moonlight Can Do, "a song so closely associated with the sublime Billie Holiday (that) few would even have attempted it, let alone brought it off so well, with just the right blend of lightheartedness and sincerity."

Billy May came in to overdub the trumpets, trombones, flute, and vibes the following weeks in May and Something Wonderful was complete. Released in October, it sold even better than her debut. She’d already recorded most of the tracks for her next two albums by the time of Something Wonderful's release, which left her free to tour while Capitol continued pumping out the records. Just over a year after leaving Columbus, Wilson’s ascent was just beginning.


Tracklist

A1 Teach Me Tonight

Written-By – Gene De Paul, Sammy Cahn

A2 This Time The Dream's On Me

Written-By – Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer

A3 I'm Gonna Laugh You Out Of My Life

Written-By – Cy Coleman, Joseph Allen McCarthy

A4 I Wish You Love

Written-By – Albert A. Beach, Charles Trenet

A5 Guess Who I Saw Today

Written-By – Elisse Boyd, Murray Grand

A6 If Dreams Come True

Written-By – Goodman, Sampson, Mills

B1 What A Little Moonlight Can Do

Written-By – Harry Woods

B2 The Great City

Written-By – Curtis R. Lewis

B3 He's My Guy

Written-By – Don Raye, Gene De Paul

B4 Something Happens To Me

Written-By – Jack Segal, Marvin Fisher

B5 Call It Stormy Monday

Written-By – "T-Bone" Walker

B6 Something Wonderful Happens

Written-By – Gamse, Del Guercio, Thorn

Companies, etc.
  • Manufactured By – Capitol Records, Inc.

Credits
Uncredited musicians

Nancy Wilson - vocals

Jack Marshall - guitar

Milt Raskin - piano, celeste

Joe Comfort - bass

Shelly Manne - drums

Ben Webster - tenor sax (A2, A4, B3, B5)

Pete Candoli - trumpet

Frank Beach - trumpet

Conrad Gozzo - trumpet

Mannie Klein - trumpet

Murray McEachern - trombone

Lloyd Ulyate - trombone

Si Zentner - trombone

George Roberts - trombone

Tommy Pederson - trombone

Emil Richards - vibes (A3, B3, B6)

Justin Gordon - flute (A3, B3, B6)



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