Recorded between March and July 1993 Cassandra Wilson’s Blue Note debut is nothing short of sensational. It has one of the most seductive openings to any record ever. And what a brave opening. The song, ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’, dates all the way back to 1941 and has been covered many times down the years, including versions by Chet Baker and Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. But the kind of magic that Cassandra Wilson weaves on this track, and all the way through Blue Light ‘Til Dawn, leaves them far behind.
Of course there are some who will be quick to point out that this is no jazz album. Well, who cares? It is so accomplished, so different, so adventurous, that it deserves all the plaudits that it has received. Anyone who can cover Robert Johnson (and offer something totally new) as well as Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, and Ann Peebles, and bring the kind of freshness to the songs that Ms Wilson brings is deserving of our attention.
With a voice like satin, one that constantly evokes the vibe of smoke-filled clubs of old, the inventiveness on Mitchell’s ‘Black Crow’ and Van the Man’s ‘Tupelo Honey’ is what draws us in. Sparseness is her trademark, a sparseness that allows no margin of error on the vocals. And there is none. For me this is jazz soul, not the kind that came along in the 1960s but* jazz that is bathed in soulfulness. This is truly a landmark album, and let no one tell you it’s not jazz. Then again, maybe it’s just brilliant.
Now it is reissued in an expanded form with three additional tracks recorded live back in 1994. Later this year Cassandra has a new album of Billie Holiday songs coming out…but in the meantime this will do nicely!
May (Cassandra Wilson ‘Blue Light To A New Dawn’ tour)
5/07-08 – The Triple Door – Seattle, WA
5/10 – The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
5/11 – Musical Instrument Museum – Phoenix, AZ
5/13 – Kuumbwa Jazz Center – Santa Cruz, CA
5/15 – Oakland, CA – Yoshi’s
5/16-17 – San Francisco, CA – Yoshi’s
5/19-20 – Dakota Bar & Grill – Minneapolis, MN