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Cassandra Wilson at Blue Note

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Photo courtesey of eonemusic.com

by Nicholas Fernandez

Cassandra Wilson’s set at Blue Note Thursday night offered a chance to cast off Northeastern metropolitan worries in favor of Southern relaxation.

Wilson has traveled the world—performing in Moscow, the Ukraine, Detroit, and New York this month alone. She has moved from small indie labels to Blue Note Records and back to independents. Through all of this, however, she has maintained a close connection to her Mississippi roots, with music that oozes blues, sensuality, and camaraderie.

This week's engagement marked the end of the Blue Note Jazz Festival and the release of Wilson's newest album; the aptly titled Another Country is her first release on eOne records, a subsidiary of the Ojah Media Group, which Wilson founded to highlight the rich Mississippi music scene.

Wilson and her band tied together both standards and originals, infusing each with bluesy riffs and seductive harmonies. Her backing instrumentation could have easily manifested itself at a local barbeque, bar, or evening soiree, with harmonica, bass, drums, and not one, but two guitars. (Three, actually, when Wilson joined the band for “Red Guitar” on—you guessed it—a red guitar.) But to call the instrumentalists "backing" is to negate the organic, interactive connection the ensemble shared, trading riffs that were as vocally inspired as Wilson’s contributions.

Wilson encouraged a relaxed vibe throughout the set, even having a woman in the front row call the set list.

“You want them both?” Wilson asked, when the woman read two song titles as one. “We can segue between them if you like.”

 The woman nodded.

“Okay. You heard the lady,” Wilson told the band.

A bumpy transition between the songs revealed Wilson’s honest and open approach to the music. We were not only there to be entertained, but were part of the experience—regulars at the local watering hole, bantering with the house band.

Wilson stuck to the melodies, only scatting occasionally, but was involved with each song from start to finish. She danced, clapped, snapped, moaned, hummed, and conducted with her full body, never once distracted from the art. If anything, her motion highlighted the ensemble’s contributions.

The performance ended as it started, with Wilson off stage while the band jammed on a down-home riff. Wilson’s presence remained—sexy and seductive, but never overpowering—and my Northeastern problems momentarily looked a little less daunting. 

 

Cassandra Wilson, voice 
Marvin Sewell, guitar 
Brandon Ross, guitar 
Brad Jones, bass 
Gregoire Maret, harmonica 
John Davis, drums

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