Friday, July 4, 2008

Cassandra Wilson…

Numerous web sites, Cassandra Wilson's Official Web Site, America Online's Biography Of Cassandra Wilson and NPR Music Biography Of Cassandra Wilson were quite helpful in preparing my tribute to Cassandra Wilson. Please click on the hyperlinks to enjoy these web sites.

Cassandra Wilson grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, and went on to become one of the top jazz singer-songwriters of the 1990s, a vocalist blessed with a distinctive and flexible voice who is not afraid to take chances. She was playing the guitar and piano by age nine, and by the '70s was performing with an assortment of R&B bands.

Following a year in New Orleans, Wilson moved to New York in 1982 and began working with Dave Holland and Abbey Lincoln. Her moving, expressive voice garnered her reputation as an emerging soul singer. She impressed those on the jazz-club circuit, but always remained true to her Mississippi roots. After meeting Steve Coleman, she became the main vocalist with the M-Base Collective. (Band Members: Graham Haynes, Steve Coleman, Andy Milne, Cassandra Wilson, Reggie Washington, Lonnie Plaxico, David Gilmore, Kevin Bruce Harris, James Weidman, Marvin "Smitty" Smith, Greg Osby)

Although there was really no room for a singer in the overcrowded free funk ensembles, Wilson did as good a job of fitting in as was possible. She worked with New Air and recorded her first album as a leader in 1985. By her third record, a standards date, she was sounding quite a bit like Betty Carter.

Cassandra Wilson changed directions and performed an acoustic blues-oriented program for Blue Note called Blue Light Til Dawn (1993). In 1996, she won a Grammy for her album New Moon Daughter (1995), which combined original tracks with classic and re-imagined cover songs from the likes of U2, Hank Williams and The Monkees.

By going back in time, she had found herself, and Wilson has continued interpreting in fresh and creative ways vintage country blues and folk music up until the present day. During 1997 she toured as part of Wynton Marsalis' Blood on the Fields production. Traveling Miles, her tribute to Miles Davis, followed two years later. For 2002's Belly of the Sun, she drew on an array of roots musics -- blues, country, soul, rock -- to fashion a record that furthered her artistic career while still aligning well with trends in popular music. Glamoured, released in 2003, posed a different kind of challenge; half the material was composed by Wilson herself.

Wilson continues to make albums that draw heavily from her Southern background and contemporary sounds. Thunderbird (2006) even dabbles in hip-hop — while helping to produce unheralded local musicians as founder of Ojah Media Group.

Cassandra Wilson’s Albums…

Point of View (1985)
Songbook (1985)
Days Aweigh (1987)
Blue Skies (1988)
Jumpworld (1989)
She Who Weeps (1990)
After the Beginning Again (1991)
Live (1991)
Dance to the Drums Again (1992)
Blue Light Til Dawn (1993)
New Moon Daughter (1995)
Traveling Miles (1999)
Belly of the Sun (2002)
Belly of the Sun [Japan Bonus Track] (2002)
Sings Standards (2002)
Sings Standards [Japanese Import] (2002)
Glamoured (2003)
Traveling Miles [Bonus Tracks] (2004)
Traveling Miles [DVD Audio] (2005)
Thunderbird (2006)

My favorite Cassandra Wilson songs include A Little Warm Death, Angel, Crazy Love, Death Letter, Find Him, Fragile, Go To Mexico, Harvest Moon, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, I Want To Be Loved, Killing Me Softly With His Song, Last Train To Clarksville, Love Is Blindness, Memphis, Moon River, My One And Only Love, Polka Dots And Moonbeams, Shall We Dance, Shelter From The Storm, Skylark, Solomon Sang, Strange Fruit, Time After Time, Until, When The Sun Goes Down, Wichita Lineman, and You Move Me.

She does some great covers of famous songs, COMPLETELY changing the sound from the original version of the song you know well. Listen to Harvest Moon, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, Killing Me Softly With His Song, Last Train To Clarksville, Moon River, and Time After Time, and you’ll be amazed at how she takes her original admirations for a song, and performs it in a completely different way, similar to how Jose Feliciano performed a brilliant, yet completely different version of The Doors’ “Light My Fire.”

Cassandra Wilson has a very unique voice. Jazz, soul, very relaxing, and deep, deeper than some of the men you know, yet it works for her. Wilson’s music is extremely enjoyable, and soothing to listen to.

Thanks, Cassandra, for some terrific, mellow, jazz music that’s extremely soothing and pleasurable to listen to…

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