Teddy Wilson, Leftist jazzman

This video is called Teddy Wilson Trio with Jo Jones on International Hour – American Jazz 1963.

By Chris Searle:

Wilson the keys

Teddy Wilson Trio with Jo Jones – Complete Recordings (Essential Jazz Classics)

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Not for nothing was Teddy Wilson, the pianist born in Austin, Texas, in 1912, known as the Marxist Mozart.

Benny Goodman said of him: “My pleasure in playing with Teddy Wilson equalled the pleasure I got out of playing Mozart,” and his phenomenal swing artistry made him a musician admired and emulated by many of the great musicians of his era.

His father was an English professor at the all-black Tuskegee College, where his mother was the chief librarian.

Perhaps their influence helped to propel him forward, for during the heyday of the hugely popular swing orchestras in the ’30s – when Wilson was still in his twenties – he campaigned and organised relentlessly for the Popular Front in jazz, promoting and supporting musical fundraising for anti-lynching and trade union struggles at home and for the Spanish republicans and Ethiopian people in their resistance to the Italian fascist invasion abroad.

By 1943 he was chairing an artists’ committee in the campaign to elect black communist candidate Benjamin Davis to the New York City council, and was alongside some of the era’s greatest jazz musicians as organiser and performer for benefits for Russian war relief.

As a musician Wilson broke through huge racist barriers. In 1936 he became the first black jazz musician to play with the Benny Goodman Orchestra and was a permanent member of Goodman’s trio and quartet.

As a young bandleader he led many of the renowned small group sessions of the late ’30s with Billie Holliday, Lester Young, Buck Clayton and many of the stellar musicians of the Count Basie and Duke Ellington orchestras.

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