Cassandra Wilson’s 1993 album Blue Light Til Dawn was not only an artistic breakthrough for her, but in brilliantly unifying songs by artists as different as Robert Johnson, the Monkees and Joni Mitchell, it has proven to be one of the most influential vocal recordings of the past 30 years. In its wake, genre-bending became a common practice for a wide range of singers including Patricia Barber, k.d. lang and Holly Cole. So did employing unconventional instruments and exotic instrumental combinations.
As she demonstrated with her recent masterpiece of standards, Loverly, Wilson remains committed to the jazz repertory. But whether dusting off “The Very Thought of You” or channeling the blues of “Dust My Broom,” she brings out striking shades of emotion with her husky, free-floating, luxuriantly unhurried vocals. Wilson is a conjurer and shaper of moods, an artist who is as well-suited to interpreting the Miles Davis songbook, as she did on her album Traveling Miles, as trading vocals with R&B star John Legend, which she did on her most recent effort, Silver Pony.
Wilson, who usually performs barefoot, brings that same naturalistic approach to her band, which is there less to accompany her than to bond with her using its seductive rhythms and cool textures. With the exception of New Orleans-schooled pianist Jon Cowherd (who co-founded the Brian Blade Fellowship and has backed jazz-gospel singer LIzz Wright), Wilson’s band is one of longtime associates: the extraordinary guitarist Marvin Sewell, a Chicago native; bassist Reginald Veal; drummer Herlin Riley, and harmonica player Gregoire Maret.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 3
Petrillo Music Shell
8:30 – 9:30 pm