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A Boston Jazz Weekend, Part One

Cassandra Wilson, Berklee Performance Center, 4-11-15

Cassandra Wilson
Cassandra Wilson

Spring appears to have finally sprung in Boston. After a miserable winter of record-breaking snowfall and what seemed like weekly blizzards-and yet another batch of flurries as recently as last Wednesday-the city burst forth this past weekend with a sudden, spectacular wealth of high-profile jazz, largely courtesy of the invaluable nonprofit arts promoters World Music/CRASHarts and the Celebrity Series of Boston. Those organizations respectively brought Cassandra Wilson’s tribute to Billie Holiday and the duo performance of Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock to town on Saturday and Sunday. Meanwhile, the Vijay Iyer Trio was celebrating its terrific new album Break Stuff with two sets nightly on Friday and Saturday at the Regattabar, plus a question-and-answer session at nearby Harvard University on Friday afternoon.

The two concert-hall shows both essentially celebrated jazz legends. Wilson’s took place Saturday at the Berklee Performance Center, with the program consisting of 11 of the 12 songs from her spanking new April 7 release, Coming Forth by Day, their order shuffled slightly (and “Strange Fruit” the lone omission). She started the set, unlike the album, with “The Way You Look Tonight,” which another singer born, like Holiday, in 1915-Frank Sinatra-had had some success with. (Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins recorded a particularly memorable instrumental version of the tune together as well, in 1954.) Robby Marshall started things off on bass clarinet, which he would play as much as his tenor saxophone as the evening progressed, and the rest of the band-Kevin Breit on guitars, Charlie Burnham on violin, Henry Hey subbing for Jon Cowherd on piano and keyboards, Wilson’s longtime musical director Lonnie Plaxico on upright bass, and Davidé DiRenzo on drums-gradually joining in before Wilson made her stylish entrance in a leopard print and shades.

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