In 1962, Nancy Wilson was still being positioned by Capitol Records as a jazz-pop singer. In the years after she signed with the label in 1959, her first five albums were examples of this hybrid: Like in Love, with Willie Smith on alto sax, Something Wonderful (1960) with Ben Webster on tenor sax, The Swingin's Mutual (1961) with the George Shearing Quintet, Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderley (1962) and Hello Young Lovers (1962). Nancy's pure pop breakout would come in 1963, with Broadway, My Way.
In September 1962—at the exact moment of this fundamental transition—Nancy, at age 25, appeared on TV's Jazz Scene USA in Los Angeles hosted by Oscar Brown Jr. Nancy was on her way up after established jazz singers like Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee, Dinah Washington and Ella Fitzgerald had become favored by older jazz fans and before Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross, Mary Wells and many other female gospel-soul singers revolutionized the marketplace. The year 1962 was the quiet before the R&B storm.
As you'll see, Nancy was exceptional on Brown's show. My advice is to watch this clip once and then play it again without looking at the video. You'll get a fine sense of what a consummate artist Nancy was in '62—delivering nuance and personality perfectly the first time. You'll also appreciate once again what an extraordinary accompanist Lou Levy was. And dig Nancy's banter with Brown on her planned move into Broadway fare.
Here's Nancy in '62...
A special JazzWax thanks to Larry Coltrane in Hawaii.