Cassandra Wilson | Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Cassandra Wilson Recommended All Ages Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Fri., Sept. 26, 8 p.m. 2008

One of the things that makes Cassandra Wilson my favorite jazz singer is the way she keeps reimagining her sound—most radically on 1993’s Blue Light ’Til Dawn, where she scrambled pop, blues, and country in a gorgeous, languid acoustic framework, improvising like a jazz musician even though she’d stepped well outside the cozy confines of swing. I was skeptical when I heard that Loverly (Blue Note) would be her first return to the standard repertoire since 1988’s masterful Blue Skies, but the new album makes it clear she’s not retrenching. It’s sparser and looser, with detailed but wide-open arrangements that leave Wilson lots of breathing room. With her sumptuous, leisurely phrasing and molasses-thick tone, she caresses fresh nuance from chestnuts like “Lover Come Back to Me” and “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most,” every subtle dip of her voice summoning a new shade of meaning. Guitarist Martin Sewell and pianist Jason Moran interact with focused empathy, so that instead of a harmonic pileup their two chordal instruments create a delicate, invigorating lattice of notes that buoys Wilson’s vocals without entangling them. Sewell will join Wilson here, along with bassist Reginald Veal, drummer Herlin Riley, and percussionist Lekan Babalola, all of whom also appear on the album; pianist Jonathan Batiste will fill in for Moran. —Peter Margasak

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