on 27 July 2008
I know and accept that we are all entitled to our opinions, but I find the one-star review for this CD given by one of the listeners impossible and, to be quite honest, a bit of an insult to serious jazz listeners, not to mention the great Cassandra Wilson herself, one of (possibly the best) the best jazz singers of her generation. I have this and all of her other albums, and I find this one particularly masterful in it's execution. The voice sounds fresher than ever and the musicians playing with her are nothing short of superb, each a master in his own right. To dismiss this as "dinner music" (as some apparently have) misses the point of the album entirely. In "Loverly", Wilson takes familiar music and transforms it, with elegance, intelligence and surperb finesse. This is music making of an extraordinarily high caliber. However, as with much of Wilson's more recent work, it require more than one listen to really "get" it -- a listener who dismisses at first hearing an unfamiliar approach from an ever-changing and developing artist might well jump to some very unfair and infortunate conclusions. Wilson has come a VERY long way since "Blue Lights Till Dawn" -- like a fine cognac, she just gets better and better with maturity.
on 22 June 2008
This is Cassandra Wilson's best album in years and make no mistake. Although most of the tunes are well worn standards Wilson interprets them in her own unique way making them like none that have gone before.It's also great to hear her being backed by the wonderful Jason Moran on piano who reins in his freeish jazz tendencies and delivers some nicely swinging solos. But the show,of course,belongs to Cassandra herself and boy is it a great one.Having road tested most of this material at the Camden jazz cafe last year amongst other places the band really are familiar and comfortable with this set of tunes.There are many highlites - "Wouldn't it be Loverly" is for me,the pick of the album and great to hear Cassandra swinging again,"St james infirmary" gets a modern update with a tight funky guitar grove,"dust my broom" is reinvigorated with some fuzzy electric guitar,"Caravan" works on a deep afro percussive groove and builds to it's storming climax and the album is rounded off with another nice swinger in "Sleepin Bee".A quality album from one of the worlds premier singers.One of the years best vocal jazz albums.
Listening to this album it difficult not to get lost in the diversity of styles, accomplished musicianship and passionate performance that this album offers the lucky listener. Somehow Cassandra has reworked some very familiar tunes without their essence. Hear the funk of 'St James Infirmary', the quasi-folky treatment of 'Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most' and the spaced -blues of 'Dust My Broom' and believe. On standards such as the bass led 'The Very Thought of You' she is able to bring a sultry depth and languor to her voice that is wholly seductive. Mention should also be made of the musicians, who do so much more than 'back up' the singer, they are wholly integral to the success of this project- their ability to convincingly dial up interesting but apposite contributions are nothing short of revelatory.
Everything is 'right' about this album- the song choice, production and performance. Highly recommended.
on 14 August 2011
Cassandra Wilson is very consistent and has not released a poor album since she signed to Blue Notes. Her latest release, "Loverly", is no exception. Departing from the funk and R&B experimentation on her previous release, "Thunderbird", Cassandra opts for a more traditional jazz sound with some blues, swing and soul added to the mix.
"Lover Come Back To Me" and "St. James Infirmary" are very cool up tempo jazz tracks with great arrangements and vocals. "A Day In The Life Of A Fool" and "'Til There Was You" are much more suave, creating a smoky atmosphere. "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" is turned into an infectious jazz swing number and "Dust My Broom" has an addictive blues influence. There is great improvisation on "Gone With The Wind" and "Caravan" which adds variety and excitement to this release. "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most" is a simple ballad with just Cassandra's deep vocals and a guitar and "The Very Thought Of You" is a darker sounding ballad with just bass as accompaniment. "Arere" brings African influences and is packed with rythym. The album ends with another foot tapping tune in "Sleepin' Bee".
With not one note out of place, this is yet again another solid effort by Cassandra Wilson who has not put a foot wrong once in the past 15 years. Let's hope this continues for as long as she is willing to record music.
Listening to some of the songs on this CD reminds me why I'm not a jazz fan. However, I do have most of Cassandra's records because I love the way she embraces her heritage by doing interpretations of blues classics by the likes of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Fred McDowell. These versions embody the spirit and soul of the originals but update and move the songs on. She also has a way of turning in classy versions of unpromising material, like the Monkeys' "Last train to Clarkesville"
Looking at the tracks on this CD I was really keen to hear what she would do with "Dust my broom" and "St. James Infirmary" - not much and bloody murder it, respectively. The rest of the CD is a bit of a ragbag of jazz standards and show songs that seem to have been thrown together in a hurry and recorded just as fast. I was dreading "Loverly" but that is one of the better interpretations, together with "Black Orpheus" which is up to her usual standard. Most of the others seem to have been recorded on the first take, "The very thought of you" has Cassandra singing over just a double bass, this could have been really nice but the melody seems to have got lost as though this was just the first run through.
Isn't it time Blue Note issued all her blues songs on one CD? (but please don't include this version of St. James Infirmary".)
Whenever I'm in the vicinity I like to pop into La Bel-Luna on the Rambla Catalunya. Always accomplished musicians and the cerveza is muy frio. The music tends towards the realm of dinner jazz, but that's OK because it's live, and you can sometimes see the folks on stage straining to keep inside the box. But I'd draw the line at buying a record of it.
Yet somehow, despite an earlier declaration that I wouldn't, I've shelled out cash for Cassandra Wilson's latest record, comprised almost exclusively of dinner jazz.
Don't get me wrong. This is superior dinner jazz. But it's dinner jazz all the same. While I wasn't overenamoured with Thunderbird, something it wasn't was dinner jazz, with a couple of tracks being good interpretations of traditional songs and one so raw and earthy you can almost smell the roadhouse it could be played in. If Loverly smells of anything it's overpriced Chardonnay.
Part of the problem is the songs themselves, and none more so than the one that provides the collection with its title, a song written for, and which should legally be compelled to remain within, a stage musical. Try as I might I am unable to divorce this version from the movie's OST. This is in contrast with Wilson's version of, say, Last Train To Clarksville, where I don't even think of the Monkees. An earlier analogy may be Miles's versions of Bye Bye Blackbird and Human Nature. And just as Human Nature could never define Miles as a bad musician, so Loverly does not take away from the virtuosity of the assembled musicians, and just as at La Bel Luna there are times when the urge to break out of the box is audible (on Caravan, maybe, or the set's only original, Arere).
Let's put this in some kind of context. My CD collection is not massive, but it's big by most people's standards. It's lovingly housed in a grandsworth of hand-made (not my hands) glass-fronted cabinet and its contents from the top are dominated by Miles, Trane, Steve Coleman, Geri Allen and, yes, Cassandra Wilson. But I'm not a jazz fan (what a straitjacket that label is! Miles professed to hate it.). I love music. And two shelves down, via Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, there's a sizeable slab of Emmylou Harris (and a few shelves further down Cassandra's sister Gretchen). And if anyone wants to hear how to choose songs to cover in these times, just listen to Harris's version of Tracy Chapman's All That You Have Is Your Soul. Go back two shelves, via the original, and listen to Harvest Moon sung by, yes, Cassandra Wilson, and you see she can do it! As well as, in fact better than, virtually anybody.
For the third time then, from Glamoured on, I find myself disappointed by Cassandra's output, so disappointed that my original review was written fast and knee-jerk fashion. Although it may not be helpful, I still stand by it as an expression of the elemental frustration I feel with Wilson at not fulfilling her potential, and I've left it below just in case anybody thinks I may want to disown it. I don't.
Here it is...
Cassandra Wilson's Blue Light `Til Dawn is one of my most-played records; her 2002 collection Sings Standards has hardly been played. Since the excellent Belly Of The Sun there have been two disappointing records featuring her own compositions, though admittedly the better tracks on Thunderbird were covers. Were this another such mix, however I'd take the risk; what I'm not about to do is spend nine quid or whatever on another set of standards, curious as I may be. One of the clinchers is that the collection takes its name from Wouldn't It Be Loverly? (from My Fair Lady), and the thought of Cassandra Wilson doing a Dick Van Dyke, singing in a "cockerny" accent is one of the least exciting prospects I could imagine.
So, whoever it is who has kidnapped the Cassandra Wilson of Blue Light, you've had your fun, but we'd like her back now, please.