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Cassandra Wilson: Thunderbird

Is it just my perception, or has Cassandra Wilson long held exalted status among female jazz vocalists? While the likes of Diana Krall, Dianne Reeves and Luciana Souza coexist as gold medalists, hasn’t Wilson solely occupied a heightened platinum stratum? If so, Wilson’s latest, which appropriately takes its name from the Native American symbol for divine intervention, simply sharpens her creative edge. From the opening bars of the urgently spiced “Go to Mexico” (cowritten, along with three other tracks, by Wilson) it’s obvious, yet again, that she has invaded fresh artistic territory.

Magic is the prismatic theme-the magic of pure love, of faith, of redemption, of romantic and sexual satisfaction (particularly on a reading of Jakob Dylan’s “Closer to You” overflowing with unleashed desire). Among the alchemists assisting her in the concoction of these 10 potions are producer T Bone Burnett (who also contributes two songs, including the masterfully hazy, haunted “Lost”) and Keefus Ciancia, whose keyboards and electric bass provide a startling, invigorating change from the less intrusive acoustic guitars with which Wilson is often associated. The overall effect is like being submerged in a tribal elixir, emerging with emotions fully stirred. Enchanting? Indeed. Or more accurately, enchanted.

Originally Published