Graham Reid | | 1 min read
More so than her Blue Note labelmate Norah Jones, vocalist Wilson (along with violinist Regina Carter on Verve incidentally) has redefined the parameters of what we know as "jazz" in the 21st century.
Jones may be a superb jazzy singer-songwriter with a country heart, but Wilson can turn her attention to material from all across the musical spectrum (not unlike what used to happen in the 50s and 60s) and find some nuance to exploit or bring a personal touch to.
In the past she has interpreted the music of Miles Davis (the album Traveling Miles), covered the Band's The Weight and pop standards such as Witchita Lineman, and her Thunderbird album was produced by T-Bone Burnett (see below). She's as comfortable on traditional blues and songs by Jakob and Bob Dylan as she is in writing her own material.
So you take any album by Wilson seriously. She does - although there is always a sense of wit about them too.
This album of interpretations (with a stunning band which includes pianist Jason Moran, bassists Lonnie Plaxico or Reginald Veal, drummer Herlin Riley and guitarist Marvin Sewell) skates effortlessly across genres for its material: Wouldn't It Be Loverly, Caravan, If There Was You, St James Infirmary, The Very Thought Of You . . .
That's Lerner-Loewe to Ellington to popular movie song to traditional blues and a classic American ballad. Few other artists could do that with such cool aplomb, but Wilson is like very few others -- she rewrites these songs for you.
And she picks up Elmore James' Dust My Broom for an earthy but sophisticated interpretation.
Cassandra Wilson remains the most interesting and rewarding of the many jazz vocalists around today -- and if this one keeps the emotions in check a fraction too much then it simply makes for a sustained mood piece with enough variety to be utterly engaging.