“The Way You Look Tonight” – Teddy Wilson And His Orchestra (1936)

Brunswick; New York, October 21, 1936: Irving Randolph-t/Vido Musso-cl/Ben Webster-ts/Teddy Wilson-p/Allen Reuss-g/Milton Hinton-sb/Gene Krupa-d/Billie Holiday-v.


Theodore “Teddy” Wilson; New York 1937. Photo courtesy hororecords.blogspot

It’s my birthday week so I’m picking one of my favorites from Teddy Wilson’s 1930s Brunswick sessions.

This track features Billie Holiday on vocals, sans the familiar Lester Young pairing.

But in this take, Ben Webster’s full tenor-sax sound proves more appropriate.

Webster produces just the right softness and tranquility that complements Billie’s slightly rougher, and slightly tipsy vocal phrasing, allowing her to convey imagery that is honest and believable.

Plus, Vido Musso, later known as a tenor sax powerhouse of the Stan Kenton Orchestra, sets the opening verse by delivering a delicate, almost innocent, clarinet solo that wouldn’t have been as effective if a brass instrument was used in its place.

I love the sincerity and ease of Billie’s delivery, and the subtle, sparse, and almost reflective and reassuring trio of piano-bass-drums verse that appears after the slightly nervous sounding trumpet solo by Irving Randolph.

The song swings, but at the same time the rhythm is methodical, effortless and delicate. The swing movement, set by Teddy Wilson but maintained by Gene Krupa, is crisp and steady but carefully avoids being jaunty or danceable.

The listener is first introduced to the song through a short, simple and curt piano melody comprised of singular, individually played notes–a melody that is distant yet captivating. Over time, and ever so slightly, those singular introductory notes mature to an orchestral ending that is uplifting, confident and harmonious.

This song is really one of my favorites and with every listen, never fails to be captivating and engaging.

One thought on ““The Way You Look Tonight” – Teddy Wilson And His Orchestra (1936)

  1. 1930’s jazz doesn’t get any better than Teddy Wilson/Billie Holiday (and 1930’s musicals don’t get any better than SWING TIME, in which this song was sung by Fred Astaire).


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