Music Reviews

Cassandra Wilson

Belly of the Sun

Blue Note

My first exposure to Cassandra Wilson came via Blue Moon Daughter. Some have called it a classic. While I dearly love it, I wouldn’t call it a “classic.” This release is. This is the best work Cassandra Wilson has ever done. It’s also one of the best jazz recordings that I’ve heard in years.

As on prior releases, the covers that Cassandra chooses are sometimes surprising and are all firmly stamped with her style to a degree that she redefines them and threatens to own them. Her choice of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman” struck me as rather odd until I heard it. Her covering Robbie Robertson’s “The Weight” – the lead off tune here – was more understandable and predictable to someone familiar with her work.

Cassandra is also growing as a songwriter. The second song on this release, “Justice,” is one of her most powerful ever. It’s got a siren quality. The call for reparations was a bit off-putting to me at first, but after listening to her smoky, sultry voice whisper it in my ear a few times, I was willing to empty my pockets. The song itself is constructed like a lovemaking session. It comes on deliberately slow and teasing, but within minutes, the dance commences, and you cannot help but take her hand.

Cassandra Wilson has the sensibilities and the potential to be the new Nina Simone. Her delivery is every bit as good as Joni Mitchell’s, and the southern blues and R&B influences are very rich. This recording works on all sorts of levels. It’s earthy, it’s seductive, it’s even danceable, but the best use of it might require you to dim the lights, light a candle, and snuggle up with your sweetie.

Blue Note Records:

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