Nancy Wilson

Released 2004

Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album 2005




Nancy Wilson’s latest disc, R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal), on Pittsburgh’s nonprofit MCG (Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild) label, is intended to celebrate her 50th anniversary in show business, though as she wryly observes, “It’s really been 52.” Echoing the sentiment of Sinatra’s late-career Some Nice Things I’ve Missed, the album is, she says, themed around “songs I adore but never got the chance to sing. It’s a real mixed bag.”

As the title suggests, each of the dozen tracks has a deeper, more intimate resonance for Wilson. “Little Green Apples,” the late O.C. Smith’s sweet paean to marital satisfaction, was included because, “O.C. was my pastor, so it is my tribute to him.” Leonard and Martin’s “Why Did I Choose You,” a dreamy duet with Kenny Lattimore, honors Marvin Gaye, from whom Wilson first heard the song “back in the days when Marvin wanted to be a balladeer.” Irving Berlin’s haunting “How About Me” is, she adds, “because of Russell Malone. I heard him play it, and the tears just rolled down my face. I didn’t have a clue what the song was or if it had lyrics, but I just fell in love with it and knew someday I had to sing it.” Johnny Mandel’s “I Wish I’d Met You,” cowritten with Richard Rodney Bennett and Franklin Underwood, is, she sighs, “just such a beautiful story”; Lee Wing’s sassy “An Older Man (Is Like an Elegant Wine),” featuring solos by Toots Thielemans and Phil Woods, was added because, Wilson coyly suggests, “I’m getting up in age now and trying to explain to people the delights of an older man. I love it! It’s a throwback to the 1950s-a Blossom Dearie kinda thing.” Elsewhere, Wilson teams once each with Ivan Lins and Gary Burton (the latter on the oft-covered “That’s All,” which she was at first hesitant to do until she “heard Jay Ashby’s arrangement, which has a different little treatment”), and goes to town with the All-Star Big Band on both “Day In, Day Out” and “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart.” The album’s cornerstone, though, is Wilson’s first studio reunion with George Shearing since The Swingin’s Mutual!, for which she chose “Blame It on My Youth” because, she giggles, “you know I’m 67 now, so it seemed like an opportune time to sing it.”

Ever since news of R.S.V.P. surfaced, rumors have been flying that Wilson, recently added to the National Endowment of the Arts’ elite list of Jazz Masters, is ready to hang up her skates. “I doubt,” she speculates, “that this is my last album, but I’m getting very close to my last appearance. I’m not going to record anymore with Ramsey. We have three out, and he and I have had a lot of fun, but neither of us wants to work that much any more!” After a half-century in the spotlight, will retirement sit well with her? Absolutely, she insists, emphasizing, “Singing is not my life. My life is my husband and my kids and their kids. I have four grandsons. My husband says, ‘You give everything to those boys,’ and I say, ‘Well, that’s what life is all about.’ In terms of my career, I’ve never been out there totally. I remember once realizing that I knew precisely where I’d be for the next two years and told [my management], ‘This is not what I came out here to do. Back off, because I cannot live like this and I don’t want it to that degree.’ It’s only wonderful when you can do it and love it. And you can’t love it if you’re doing it every day or sacrificing you’re children to it. Fortunately, I’ve been able to cross that bar. I’m most thankful that I’ve always been able to keep the love of my family; most thankful that my mother and father and aunts and uncles and husband and kids never lost sight of who I was and loved me. I could always go home.”

Christopher Loudon (JazzTimes)

Track Listing:

1. An Older Man (Is Like an Elegant Wine) (Lee Wing) featuring: Toots Thielemans / Phil Woods 4:37

2. Day in, Day Out (Rube Bloom / Johnny Mercer) 3:21

3. Why Did I Choose You (Michael Leonard / Hugh Martin) featuring: Kenny Lattimore 5:11

4. I Wish I’d Met You (Richard Rodney Bennett / Johnny Mandel / Frank Underwood) featuring: Joe Negri 4:59

5. I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart (Duke Ellington / Irving Mills / Henry Nemo / John Redmond) featuring: Phil Woods 3:20

6. Goodbye (Gordon Jenkins) 4:18

7. How About Me? (Irving Berlin) featuring: Paquito D’Rivera 5:16

8. Minds of Their Own (Dois Corregos) (Peter Eldridge / Ivan Lins / Caetano Veloso) featuring: Ivan Lins 4:13

9. Little Green Apples (Robert Russell) 4:39

10. You’ll See (Carroll Coates) featuring: Bill Watrous 5:08

11. That’s All (Alan Brandt / Bob Haymes) featuring: Gary Burton 3:32

12. Blame It on My Youth (Edward Heyman / Oscar Levant) featuring: George Shearing 4:31


Nancy Wilson: vocals

Toots Thielemans: harmonica

Phil Woods: alto saxophone

Llew Matthews: piano (1-4, 6-11)

Dwayne Dolphin: bass (1, 3, 4, 6-11)

Jamey Haddad: drums (1, 3, 4, 6-11)

Andy Snitzer: tenor saxophone (2, 5), clarinet (2, 5, 7)

Kenny Lattimore: vocals

Andrés Cárdenes: violin (3)

Tatjana Mead Chamis: viola (3)

David Premo: cello (3)

Joe Negri: guitar

Kim Nazarian: background vocals (4)

Jay Ashby: background vocals (4), percussion and keyboards (6), trombone (2, 5)

Mike Tomaro: bass clarinet (7), flute and alto saxophone (2, 5)

Paquito D’Rivera: clarinet

Ivan Lins: keyboards (8)

Marty Ashby: guitar (2, 5, 8)

Bill Watrous: trombone

Gary Burton: vibraphone

George Shearing: and the All-Star Big Band

Mike Tomaro: alto saxophone, clarinet

Andres Boiarsky: alto saxophone and flute (2, 5)

Eric DeFade: tenor saxophone and flute (2, 5)

Jim Germann: baritone saxophone, flute

Jim Hynes, Bob Millikan, Steve Hawk and Dennis Reynolds: trumpet

Gary Piecka and Mike Davis: trombone (2, 5)

Max Seigel: bass trombone (2, 5)

Rufus Reid: bass (2, 5)

Lewis Nash: drums (2, 5)

Dennis Reynolds, Jim Hynes and Steve Hawk: trumpet (2, 5)

Recorded at Chalice Recording Studios, CA, by Kevin Syzmanski and Red Rock Recording, PA, by Kent Heckman

Executive Producer: Marty Ashby
Producers: Jay Ashby and Marty Ashby
Recording Engineers: Jay Ashby and Jay Dudt, MCG Jazz, PA
Mixing Engineers: Jay Ashby and Jay Dudt
Photography: Charles Bush


Nancy Wilson’s R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal) is her duets album, but unlike other recent releases by singers in this format, which feature two vocalists (and often oddly matched ones, at that), most of the pairings here are with instrumentalists like George Shearing, Toots Thielemans, Phil Woods, and Gary Burton, which means this remains very much Wilson’s baby, dominated by her hushed and elegant vocals. Only two tracks feature other vocalists, one of which, a saccharine cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Why Did I Choose You” sung with Kenny Lattimore, is worth a plea to the gods to let Gaye return to this veil of tears and give Wilson a worthy singing partner. Less pop than her recent outings, R.S.V.P. is mostly made up of ballads, highlighted by a wonderful version of Gordon Jenkins’ “Goodbye” and the elegant, late-night regret of “Blame It on My Youth” which closes out the set, although Wilson steps up and swings on at least one track, the vibrant “Day In, Day Out.” This might not be the greatest album of her half-century-long career, but it isn’t an embarrassment, either (which can’t always be said about some of the other duet projects major vocalists have released in recent years), and it shows that Wilson can still wring every last emotion on earth out of a ballad — then return to sing the second verse.

Steve Leggett (AllMusic)