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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2013 | Blue Note

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Exceptional sound - Hi-Res Audio
Singer Cassandra Wilson, who has had a rather diverse career that has ranged from the free funk of M-Base to standards à la Betty Carter, has in recent times adopted a folk-oriented style a little reminiscent of Nina Simone. On New Moon Daughter her repertoire ranges from U2 to Son House, from Hoagy Carmichael to Hank Williams ("I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"); it is certainly the only album ever that contains both the Monkees' "Last Train to Clarksville" and "Strange Fruit." This CD is a surprise best-seller, for Wilson's voice actually sounds quite bored and emotionally detached. She deserves great credit for stretching herself, but one has to dig deep to find any warmth in her overly cool approach. ~ Scott Yanow
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Vocal Jazz - Released March 16, 2015 | Legacy Recordings

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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1999 | Blue Note Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Throughout the '90s the smoky-voiced contralto Cassandra Wilson has shunned piano accompaniment in favor of close-miked acoustic guitars, evoking a moodily sensual atmosphere in which pop, blues, country and straight jazz vocals all merge together. It helps that Wilson has a distinctly Southern blues cast to her singing, a quality immediately apparent on "Run The Voodoo Down," the funky opener to TRAVELING MILES, her impeccably self-produced homage to Miles Davis. As is her wont, Wilson has chosen to mix it up on this tribute, setting lyrics to Davis compositions such as "Blue In Green," "Tutu" and "ESP" while reprising two favorite Miles covers, "Someday My Prince Will Come" and Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time." The singer also contributes some of her own welcome originals such as the poppish "Right Here, Right Now," which itself sounds like a tribute to Joni Mitchell, another mentor-spirit hovering over the proceedings. The set closes with a playful reprise of "Voodoo," featuring a sisterly duet with African singer Angelique Kidjo, who sounds right at home.
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2010 | Blue Note Records

Distinctions 4F de Télérama
Yeah, Cassandra Wilson is a jazz singer, but she’s a 21st century jazz singer, mixing elements of jazz, pop, rock, Delta blues, and light funk into her performances, expanding what a jazz vocalist can be in a contemporary world with her horn player phrasing, smoky texture, and a voice that has matured into a haunting, sensual alto. She tackles some jazz standards, but she’s also adept at taking modern rock and old country-blues songs and finding a way to make them into new jazz standards, fully aware that she’s pushing boundaries in a genre that all too often plays it safe these days. Silver Pony is a delight, with a light, shimmering sound that makes each track feel like it’s part of a deliberate yet spontaneous fabric. Wilson and her band (Wilson on vocals and synthesizer, Marvin Sewell on electric guitar, Jonathan Batiste on piano, Reginald Veal on electric bass, Herlin Riley on drums, and Lekan Babalola on percussion; Ravi Coltrane adds saxophone on “Silver Moon” and John Legend adds vocals and piano on “Watch the Sunrise”) recorded live improvisations at European concerts in Warsaw, Seville, and Granada and brought them into the studio to expand and work on with producer John Fischbach, resulting in several new songs, and with a handful of carefully picked songs by writers as diverse as Charley Patton (“Saddle Up My Pony”), Stevie Wonder (“If It’s Magic”) and Paul McCartney (“Blackbird”), and with a couple of stone-cold jazz standards (Billie Holiday’s “Lover Come Back to Me” and the traditional “Went Down to St. James Infirmary”) to fill in the spaces, Wilson and her band have created a wonderful and almost seamless set of music that explores a lot of territory and yet still keeps its cohesiveness. ~ Steve Leggett
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2014 | Blue Note

Cassandra Wilson has steadfastly refused to be pigeonholed or confined to any stylistic formula. Her highly anticipated Blue Note debut may stir renewed controversy, as she is once again all over the place. She begins the set with her intriguing version of "You Don't Know What Love Is." Then she moves from two Robert Johnson covers ("Come on in My Kitchen" and "Hellhound on My Trail") through rock compositions from Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell, her own title track, blues cut "Redbone," and a piercing version of "I Can't Stand the Rain" that can hold up to comparisons with Ann Peebles' classic. She doesn't have Johnson's menacing quality (who does?), but does invoke an equally compelling air. Wilson has great timing, pacing, and delivery, and certainly has blues sensibility in her sound. ~ Ron Wynn
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Jazz - Released April 3, 2015 | Legacy Recordings

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Perhaps the pairing of Cassandra Wilson and Billie Holiday carries a whiff of inevitability, but there's nothing predictable about Coming Forth by Day. Released to coincide with Holiday's centennial in 2015, Coming Forth by Day explicitly celebrates Lady Day by drawing upon standards she sang in addition to songs she wrote, but Wilson deliberately sidesteps the conventional by hiring Nick Launay as a producer. As a result of his work with Nick Cave, Launay mastered a certain brand of spooky Americana, something that comes in handy with the Holiday catalog, but Coming Forth by Day is never too thick with murk. It luxuriates in its atmosphere, sometimes sliding into a groove suggesting smooth '70s soul, often handsomely evoking a cinematic torch song -- moods that complement each other and suggest Holiday's work without replicating it. This is a neat trick: such flexibility suggests how adaptable Holiday's songbook is while underscoring the imagination behind Wilson's interpretations. Certainly, Launay deserves credit for his painterly production, but the success of Coming Forth by Day belongs entirely to Wilson, who proves that she's an heir to Holiday's throne by never once imitating her idol. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2009 | Blue Note Records

When most jazz singers do standards, they come from the "classic" American songbook, the one that includes show tunes and pop songs from a bygone era, one that was powered by names such as Gershwin, Lerner & Loewe, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Sammy Kahn, Johnny Mercer, and so many others. That said, Cassandra Wilson is not just any jazz vocalist, and her Blue Note catalog -- the label she's been with since 1993 -- proves this beyond a shadow of a doubt. Wilson has explored her deep love of jazz and blues to be sure, covering everyone from Robert Johnson to Miles Davis, but along the way she's also covered tunes by modern composers, those who have stormed the pop charts in the last 30 years or so, and those who are still on them. Closer to You: The Pop Side is a retrospective collection that looks at this side of Wilson's complex musical persona, and offers a selection of 11 tunes from her Blue Note albums, all of them focusing on songs from the rock, pop, and soul genres, and all executed in her own idiosyncratic manner. The stellar version of Van Morrison's "Tupelo Honey" is sung from a female perspective and drenched in acoustic guitars and upright bass, with a lone snare. Then there is her languid, deeply committed reading of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" and her drenched-in-strangeness reading of Neil Young's "Harvest Moon," which is as much ambience as it is instrumentation, with only her voice to hold it in place and keep it from disappearing into the ether. Along the way are signature readings of U2's "Love Is Blindness" and Sting's "Fragile," as well as one of the finest versions of Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman" ever committed to tape, though its scope is very different from the author's or the now canonical Glen Campbell version. Her reading of Ann Peebles' "I Can't Stand the Rain" reflects the singer's deep commitment to the soul vernacular, and while a bit less edgy than the original, it contains plenty of hidden passageways of emotion nonetheless. In sum, this can be enjoyed as a record of both where Cassandra Wilson has been when it comes to reinterpreting the tunes of the current era, and where she has pushed the envelope in terms of the role of the jazz vocalist. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1996 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2003 | Blue Note Records

Cassandra Wilson has garnered a deserving reputation for her soulful, visionary reads of songs by legendary composers old and new, from Robert Johnson to Van Morrison. On Glamoured, Wilson composed half the album, and her songs are as provocative and deserve the same weight of grace critically afforded her covers. She uses her trademark fluid, smoky delivery to redefine songs such as the old soul nugget "If Loving You Is Wrong"; the poignancy it was written with tells of a woman lost in the delirium of a forbidden love with a married man. The ache and euphoria in her voice shot through with producer Fabrizio Sotti's stunning acoustic guitar interplay is nearly overwhelming in its emotion. Her Afro-Caribbean read of Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" is a different -- and perhaps better -- version than the original. It doesn't weep and it doesn't get bogged down in its melody; it is shot through with a smoldering drone and eclectic polyrhythms that reinvent it harmonically. Willie Nelson's "Crazy" is kissed with the same elegance and soul that her version of "Tupelo Honey" was. But it is on Muddy Waters' "Honey Bee" and Abbey Lincoln's "Throw It Away," which closes the album, that Wilson offers her greatest gift: that of an improvisational blues and jazz singer who understands these songs to be living embodiments of still developing traditions. Recorded in Jackson, MS, her hometown, these songs are shot through with mischief; a controlled, winking sensuality; greasy, rollicking, and syncopated rhythms; and melody lines to kill for. Wilson's songs, particularly "I Want More" and "What Is It?" with their funky backbeats and jagged verses, are seemingly new forms for the pop song, while "Broken Drum," "Sleight of Time," and "Heaven Knows" could have been written for Nina Simone, such are their out-of-the-ages, folk-infused jazzy cadences, but Wilson makes them unclassifiable in terms of any time but the present and she is working out new forms for color, phrasing, and rhythmic interplay for her voice. Glamoured, like its Gaelic definition, is the sound of the supernatural in a human being. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2005 | Blue Note Records

Cassandra Wilson's swinging for her own creative fences this time. The sultry, gentle, acoustic guitars on her last five recordings have been largely jettisoned for a more keyboard-and percussion -friendly approach -- which includes lots of programming and loops. To that end, she's enlisted flavor-of-the-year producer T-Bone Burnett and keyboardist Keith Ciancia. This pair hired a stellar group of players that include drummer Jim Keltner, bassist Reginald Veal (a near-constant here), guitarists Colin Linden and Marc Ribot, and programming whiz Mike Elizondo. Mike Piersante plays "keypercussion" (read: drum loops), Jay Bellerose and Bill Maxwell also contribute kit work. Keb Mo' guests on a track. Ever since signing to Blue Note, Wilson's walked a razor-wire between blues, pop, and jazz, but her recordings have always been intimate affairs whether she was singing songs by Robert Johnson or Van Morrison. While she does preserve a degree of that intimacy here, some of it has fallen by the wayside in favor of the near-constant presence of drum loops, with subtle samples dropped in giving the entire proceeding a slightly more urban feel. A startling example is "Go to Mexico," where a percussion loop and the vocal chant from the Wild Tchapitoulas "Hey Pocky A-Way," are directly sampled with new words and instrumentation layered over the top -- including Veal copying the bassline. In addition, Wilson sings in a voice not really heard from her before. Intertwined with her trademark, smoky contralto (Wilson has been deeply influenced by Abbey Lincoln and Betty Carter but has become a true song stylist of her own), is a falsetto in the verse that feels like a deliberate attempt at singing "straight" modern pop. The thin, compressed production with her vocal mixed so high above the largely keyboard-driven instrumentation feels forced, at odds with the tune, and nearly sterile. Thankfully, it's the exception rather than the rule on Thunderbird. The atmospheric keyboard line that introduces her read of Jakob Dylan and the Wallflowers' "Closer to You," gives way to Keltner's softly insistent trip-hop shuffle, Veal's minimal bassline, and Ciancia's piano, keyboards, and loops are the working elements here. Wilson's guitar drifts in under her aching, seductive vocal on the refrain as Veal subtly anchors her. Wilson's read of Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Easy Rider" starts out that way -- with Linden and Ribot playing snaky and skeletal for the first two verses. It roars to life about two-and-half-minutes in, fully electric, dirty, nasty, and drenched in slow, deep swamp blues. Keltner's playing is utterly transfixing here. At a touch over seven minutes, its entrancing dynamics provide a virtual journey though the blues both past and future. The slippery drum loops re-enter on the band-written original "It Would Be So Easy," and here, club music touches pop touches the roots of the blues -- the former two happen because of the instrumentation, the latter is due to Wilson's instrument, which embodies them all and creates a new and ghostly meld. "Red River Valley" is the album's centerpiece. Accompanied only by Linden' electric slide guitar, it is full of the desolation of the tune's intent, but framed in the context of the Delta. It's one of two guitar/vocal duets here; the other one, the ballad "Lost," is more late-night Julie London than Billie Holiday. Willie Dixon's "I Want to Be Loved" is wonderful update of the blues, and "Poet" may not hit the Urban Top Ten chart, but it should; it's wondrously soulful, sexy, and glossy. While Wilson has certainly not lost any of her singular talent for interpreting the Chicago blues through the lens of jazz and pop , she has expanded her palette once more by creating an entirely new bag from which we might hear pop, through the age-old hypnotic, sensual, incantory veil of the blues. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1995 | Blue Note Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 2002 | Blue Note Records

Cassandra Wilson continues to move down a highly eclectic path on Belly of the Sun, the somewhat belated follow-up to Traveling Miles. While displaying a jazz singer's mastery of melodic nuance and improvisatory phrasing, Wilson draws on a variety of non-jazz idioms -- roots music, rock, Delta blues, country, soul -- to create a kind of earthy, intelligent pop with obvious crossover appeal. Her core band includes guitarists Marvin Sewell and Kevin Breit, who blend marvelously, Sewell mostly on mellow acoustic and Breit adding atmospheric touches on electric, 12-string, and slide guitars, as well as mandolin, banjo, and even bouzouki. Bassist Mark Peterson and percussionists Jeffrey Haynes and Cyro Baptista provide a superbly sensitive rhythmic foundation. But because Wilson returned to her home state of Mississippi to record most of this album, she made sure to book some time with local musicians. Thus guitarist Jesse Robinson guests on (and co-writes) the funky "Show Me a Love," and the octogenarian pianist "Boogaloo" Ames plays an unpolished yet utterly heartfelt duet with Wilson on the classic "Darkness on the Delta." Other guests include drummer Xavyon Jamison, trumpeter Olu Dara, pianist and vocalist Rhonda Richmond (who penned the slowly swaying "Road So Clear"), guitarist Richard Johnston, backup vocalists Patrice Monell, Jewell Bass, Henry Rhodes, and Vasti Jackson, and the children of New York's Middle School 44. Wilson delves into vintage blues with Mississippi Fred McDowell's "You Gotta Move" and a brief yet dynamic rendition of Robert Johnson's "Hot Tamales." But the best tracks are the rock/pop covers: the Band's "The Weight," Bob Dylan's "Shelter From the Storm," James Taylor's "Only a Dream in Rio," Jobim's "Waters of March," and Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman" (a 1968 hit for Glen Campbell). Wilson and band are in peak interpretive form on these ethereal reinventions. While her own lyrics may not rise to the level of a Robbie Robertson or a Bob Dylan, her versatility and focus come through clearly on the originals "Justice," "Just a Parade" (a collaboration with neo-soul rookie India.Arie), and the Caribbean-tinged "Cooter Brown." ~ David R. Adler
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2008 | Blue Note Records

Booklet
Vocalist Cassandra Wilson has used her 15 years at Blue Note to explore the interpretive range of her voice, whether singing tunes by Van Morrison, Robert Johnson, Lewis Allan, Miles Davis, or Hoagy Carmichael. In many ways, Wilson has offered a new view of the standard by using classic rock and Delta blues tunes in her live and recorded repertoires. That said, Loverly is her first offering comprised almost completely of American songbook standards since Blue Skies 20 years ago. Wilson produced the recording in Jackson, MS, and surrounded herself with old friends: guitarist Marvin Sewell, bassists Reggie Veal and Lonnie Plaxico, drummer Herlin Riley, and labelmate and pianist Jason Moran. The material is beautifully chosen; it ranges from Oscar Hammerstein's "Lover Come Back to Me" and Luiz Bonfá's "A Day In The Life Of A Fool" (the English version of "Black Orpheus") to Juan Tizol's "Caravan," Irving Mills' "St. James Infirmary," and Ray Noble's "The Very Thought of You." Given Wilson's working methods, these standards are performed in iconic ways -- without losing the central integrity of their sources. A prime example would be "Caravan," where the basic rhythmic pulse has been doubled with a snare, hi-hat, and taut, edgy piano. Wilson offers the melody as written, but with her own stretched-line phrasing applied to the lyric. "Lover Come Back to Me" carries within it the gentle bounce of the original, and Wilson evokes both Nina Simone and Betty Carter in her rhythmic approach to the lyric and melody. The warm double-time guitar strut of Sewell paces the track; Moran's solo walks a line between show tune formalism and vanguard improv that is fresh and exciting. The reading of "Black Orpheus" here is unusual: Wilson is very conservative in her approach to the melody, so much so that the beautiful Portuguese "saudade" element is texturally amplified and bossa is stretched to the breaking point. The band's meld of subtle Afro-Latin rhythms evokes Cuban son, and conserves the root elements in the original. The duet between Sewell's truly unique acoustic guitar style and Wilson's vocal on "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" is utterly tender. A pair of left-field cuts are here as well. First is a group improvisation called "Arere." Propelled by a hypnotic, nearly funky upright bassline, Sewell plays short choppy chords with Afro-Cuban percussion in the backdrop; Moran plays around and through the polyrhythms as Wilson sings and speaks -- she improvises with the band in a number of different languages. Strangely, it doesn't feel out of place here. The other ringer is a read on Elmore James' trademark blues "Dust My Broom." It is not offered as the raucous barroom wailer it classically is. Instead, it's snaky, sultry, and steamy. Sewell's edgy, razored slide guitar, hand percussion, and Wilson's finger snaps accompany her voice on the first verses, establishing a groove before the rest of the band enters. Her phrasing is pure sassy soul that gradually takes this blues firmly into the jazz camp. Wilson has done what many other singers -- many of them on Blue Note -- couldn't even envision: she has taken a substantial part of the American songbook, employed a crack, risk-taking jazz group, and added new depth, texture, and meaning to these songs, without sacrificing their elegance or appeal. Loverly is the only reason to avoid imposing a moratorium on the very tired standards genre that has become the bane of jazz in recent years. It cannot be recommended highly enough. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2002 | Verve

Cassandra Wilson is ostensibly a jazz singer, but more often than not crosses the creative line between folk, pop, and jazz. This collection of previously released tracks features Wilson on various jazz standards giving one a nice view of Wilson as simply a jazz vocalist. While this is in no way a "must have" for fans of the much lauded singer, it is a nice place for jazz aficionados to begin listening to this singular artist. ~ Matt Collar
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Jazz - Released July 16, 2002 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2014 | CM BLUE NOTE (A92)

Booklet
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Pop - Released January 1, 2005 | Blue Note Records

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Cassandra Wilson in the magazine
  • The Qobuz Minute #34
    The Qobuz Minute #34 Presented by Barry Moore, The Qobuz Minute sweeps you away to the 4 corners of the musical universe to bring you an eclectic mix of today's brightest talents. Jazz, Electro, Classical, World music ...