Shadow Wilson: A Favorite Photo


SKF NOTE: Here’s one of my favorite photos of drummer Shadow Wilson. The original is from the liner note insert of The Complete Joe Newman RCA Victor Reccordings (1955-1956): The Basie Days CD. Joe Newman’s two-CD set includes music from four LPs. Shadow Wilson is on Newman’s two Octet dates, which is where this photo was taken. The photo is used in the CD insert courtesy of French jazz pianist and record company executive Henri Renaud.

From the opening track, Corner Pocket, Shadow Wilson plays so well on this date. As is often true of the few Shadow Wilson photos I see, the drummer is recording with a bare bones drumset: bass drum, ride cymbal, snare drum, hi-hat. That’s all Shadow needs to create model swing drumming. Phew!

In a moment you’ll read an excerpt from the CD liner notes the back story to this session, including that this date was recorded using one microphone.

I wish this music was online for you to listen to. As of this morning I am unable to find it, but perhaps a reader will find the music and let us know.

newman_joe_complete_rca_victorExcerpt from Don Waterhouse’s liner notes: [Joe Newman] was booked into New York’s Webster Hall to record for the giant RCA-Victor. He took with him an octet built around a nucleus of fellow Basie-ites (Ernie Wilkins, Freddie Green and Shadow Wilson) and completed by a team of seasoned exponents of the swinging Kansas City style — a formula he would retain for most of his subsequent recording dates. The arrangements here are mainly by hornmen Ernie Wilkins and Al Cohn, but Manny Albam also lends an appreciable helping-hand.

The session was beautifully captured by sound-engineer Dick Gardner using a single microphone, no mean feat by today’s multi-tracking standards. The musicians were seated around this lone mike, and drawn into the foreground for their solos simply by standing up! An after hours affair, the gig took place between midnight and ten o’clock the next morning. As fairly usual in America, it was broken down into three three-hour stretches, with a half-hour break between each.

This can prove an amazingly efficient way of operating, with a fine balance between concentrated spells of hard work and well-earned rest, and it somehow avoids the constraining pressures of time. The atmosphere certainly proves wonderfully relaxed, and the music strikingly imaginative.


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