JJ 06/92: Cassandra Wilson – Live

Thirty years ago Simon Adams noted the husky similarity between Wilson and Nina Simone while finding the former more adventurous. First published in Jazz Journal June 1992

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There is a dynamic about Cassan­dra Wilson’s voice, a full vibrato in the lower registers, a husky tone, that brings to mind Nina Simone, not entirely an odd comparison given that both are expressive singers with a trademark theatricality. Wilson is the more outgo­ing of the two, however, taking outrageous risks as she soars and swoops round the melody.

She has the confidence to totally rework Body And Soul, avoids the usual dramas and clichés on the bridge of ’Round Midnight that so disfigure most versions of the old warhorse, bounces along with insouciant ease above the split rhythms of Corner Of The Sky, and adopts a suitably spacey tone against the exotic backdrop that concludes Desperate Move.

Best track by far is the opening Don’t Look Back, which she co-authored with guitarist Jean-Paul Bourelly, where her restraint and fine control of light and shade dis­tinguish her lines. Throughout, she is well supported by Harris and Johnson, but attention is always drawn to pianist James Weidman, who gets generous space to set the mood of most pieces, most notably Soul Melange.

At almost 70 minutes, this live album will appeal to all Wilson fans and give the rest of us an opportunity to savour her at her best – in front of an excellent band, playing to a sympathetic live audience.

Discography
Don’t Look Back; Soul Melange; ’Round Midnight; My Corner Of The Sky; Desperate Move; Body And Soul; Rock This Calling (69.08)
Wilson (v); James Weidman (p/ syn); Kevin Harris (elb); Mark Johnson (d). Recorded live, Munich, April 18, 1991.
(JMT849 149-2)