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100 Jazz Profiles
Cassandra Wilson
1955 - present
Singer. With a bluesy, sultry, rich voice, and a broad expressive range, Wilson is one of the finest singers of the contemporary jazz scene. Her albums range from the pop-inflected to all-out jazz, but she brings originality to everything she touches, writing her own lyrics to some well-known songs, and also creating much of her material from scratch.

She is also deeply aware of the blues
heritage, and this surfaces in the majority of her work. Having performed as an amateur singer at Jackson State University, Mississippi, in New Orleans and then in New York, she turned professional in the early 1980s. For most of that decade she was associated with Steve Coleman and the M-Base collective, recording both in his ensembles and under her own name for the JMT label, including her 1985 album Point of View, on which Coleman was a featured soloist and contributed a couple of compositions.

With her move to the Blue Note label
in the 1990s, she not only took on a more accessible style, but broke through to a larger audience, using pop and rock trappings as a backdrop for her ever more remarkable voice. Blue Light Til Dawn, and its successors, including New Moon Daughter, showed her ability to interpret her own original material and create a highly individual approach to jazz singing.

She has worked
with numerous other musicians including saxophonist Henry Threadgill in his trio New Air, and Wynton Marsalis in his oratorio, Blood on the Fields, but her principal work in the 21st century continues to be her own recording and touring projects.

Further Reading:

Gary Giddins: 'Cassandra Wilson - a Different Songbook' in Visions of Jazz (New York, Oxford University Press, 1998)

Recommended CD:

Traveling Miles (Blue Note 72438 54123 2 5)
Suggested track: Seven Steps


Official Cassandra Wilson site
With links and current information

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