By David Lewis Taylor
With the release of her new album "Coming Forth by Day: A Celebration of Billie Holiday," Cassandra Wilson nobly bestows her bewitching "Voice" to the transcendental songs of the legendary Billie Holiday.
"I'm part of this legacy – I come from Billie by way of Abbey Lincoln," Miss Wilson acknowledges with her signature undeniable assurance. Her confidence has made her musical choices a magnificent journey full of critical acclaim, prestigious awards, wonderment, and adoration. Within her eclectic repertoire of songs, Wilson ownership of her material is certain, and her innate musicality is engaging, innovative, and mesmerizingly warm.
The supreme jazz instrument that is Miss Wilson's smoky contralto voice is the velvet embrace that weaves throughout her music. In her live performances her band of collaborators are exceptional musicians who find expressions to both complement and enhance the emotional depth of Miss Wilson's performances. Her choice of studio producers and musicians (which often includes her band musicians) has left an indelible exclamation mark on the history of jazz. Such a mark, in fact, that Miss Wilson's genre defying music - influenced by Mississippi blues, country, Brit pop, pop, and standards - has widened the definition of jazz.
Wilson interpretations of these well-known and revered songs that have become a reflection of both the beauty and tragedy of Billie Holiday's life are re-arranged and renewed. Miss Wilson will make these songs her homage to one of her idols and our most treasured jazz vocalists. While the old standards sound new under Miss Wilson and producer Nick Launay, the music is also imbued with verve and pathos. Cassandra Wilson emotional resonance and passionate interpretations of these wonderful songs are a most elegant celebration of American music, American history, and the legendary national treasure, Billie Holiday. "Coming Forth by Day," released on Billie Holiday's 100th birthday is a gift to savor.
Top left: Terence Blanchard (L) and singer Cassandra Wilson perform at the MusiCares Person of the Year Tribute to Neil Diamond in LA. Photo by Kevin Winter.
Top right: Cassandra Wilson at the 2013 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition at Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. Photo By Paul Morigi.
Side rop: Coming Forth By Day, by Cassandra Wilson, released April 7, 2015 on the 100th Birthday of Billie Holiday.
Side bottom: Cassandra Wilson attends the 13th annual Americana Music Association Honors and Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Photo by Rick Diamond.