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Cassandra Wilson: Coming Forth by Day

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Cassandra Wilson

Though it’s disheartening to realize that even an artist as eminent as Cassandra Wilson had to turn to PledgeMusic to fund her centenary salute to Billie Holiday, it’s best to set aside such state-of-things ponderings and focus on the outcome. Which is, in a word, exquisite. It’s also clever, insightful and, though utterly respectful to Holiday as source and touchstone, strikingly original.

To achieve her reimagining of 11 Holiday-associated selections, Wilson assembled a remarkably diverse team, spearheaded by producer Nick Launay, best known for his work outside the jazz milieu, most notably with Nick Cave, Arcade Fire and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Van Dyke Parks, strongly associated with the Beach Boys, was brought in to write the string arrangements. Joining two of Wilson’s longtime collaborators, pianist Jon Cowherd and guitarist Kevin Breit, are guitarists T Bone Burnett and the Yeahs’ Nick Zinner and, from Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds, drummer Thomas Wydler and bassist Martyn P. Casey. Their alchemic blending is dense and mysterious, atavistic yet modern. Even Wilson’s voice seems cast a shade darker, a degree fuller. |

The typically disconsolate “Good Morning Heartache” becomes cunningly furtive and shot through with anger. “Strange Fruit” brilliantly escalates from simmer to slow boil to lightning-bolt fury. “All of Me” shimmers with otherworldly seductiveness. “I’ll Be Seeing You” inches along like a ghostly funeral cortege. And Wilson adds one stunning original, “Last Song (for Lester),” a tenderly imagined adieu from Holiday to Prez, her paramour and landmark musical partner.

Listen to or download this album at iTunes.

Originally Published