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Cassandra Wilson: Coloring Outside the Lines

Noted jazz singer releases Silver Pony, her 15th album as a leader and first since 2008

Cassandra Wilson
Cassandra Wilson

The cover of singer Cassandra Wilson’s new album, Silver Pony released today on Blue Note Records, features a drawing of a young Wilson in cowgirl duds on a horse. The illustration is based on a photo taken of the singer when she was just a toddler. And though the young Wilson looks tiny up on the horse, she doesn’t appear to be clenching the reins or exhibiting any fear. “Quite the opposite,” she says, chuckling. “I’m not holding on for dear life. It’s strange. I don’t remember my feelings then, but I know that I’d not been around a lot of horses. I’d seen horses. I’d gone to the fair to see them. But it looks as if I’m really relaxed and confident.” Indeed, her pose in the portrait seems an appropriate foreshadowing of her own future as an artist, confident and determined in her own creative direction.

Wilson recalls the day it was shot as if it were yesterday. “That was a pony that was brought around in the neighborhood for kids to take pictures with. I was a little tot-four and some change. My mother asked the guy to come for my brother, not for me. I was just looking at the pony, and thinking, ‘Why can’t I take a picture with the pony?’ She [her mother] didn’t really think that was a good idea, because I was a girl, I guess. But it turned out that I was the only one who took advantage of that pony ‘op.’ It’s a cherished photograph. The look on my face is so furious. I look at that picture often and I try to remember what was on my mind and why I was so furious. Kids usually smile. They’re usually smiling or giggling or laughing. But I was so serious. I think I believed I was a cowgirl!”

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