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Cassandra Wilson
GLAMOURED
(Blue Note)
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Before there was Norah Jones, before there was Diana Krall, there was Cassandra Wilson. In 1993 she defied jazz-singer convention by releasing Blue Light ítil Dawn (Blue Note), a CD that put her voice in front of not a piano trio but a variety of acoustic-guitar-based bands. She loosened up jazz-vocal repertoire, too, singing songs by, among others, Robert Johnson, Joni Mitchell, and Van Morrison. It was an adult-contemporary sensation, and it drew a large proportion of non-jazz fans to her concerts.

Glamoured is her fourth album since Blue Light ítil Dawn, and most of the elements from that CD remain in place. She still floats her druggy-sensual contralto over atypical jazz fare by the likes of Sting ("Fragile"), Dylan ("Lay Lady Lay"), Willie Nelson ("Crazy"), Muddy Waters ("Honey Bee"), and Luther Ingram (the 1972 R&B hit "If Loving You Is Wrong I Donít Want To Be Right"). Thereís also a piece from one of her influences, Abbey Lincoln, and six Wilson originals. As in the past, the covers are evocative, hookless deconstructions. Since the verse-chorus patterns are flattened or stretched with odd chords, the hooks tend to come in the occasional grooves ó the Brazilian beat of "Fragile," the acoustic-blues guitar jangle of "Honey Bee," and, especially, the spooky hypnotic guitar arpeggios and shuffling percussion of her own "On This Train." Her "I Want More" is a fast jazz rap; "What Is It?" is a tart jealousy song with a light R&B lilt and even a cooing backing chorus. Lincolnís "Throw It Away," on the other hand, is almost trad jazz, just voice and bass, doing the do. Thereís not as much variety in the instrumentation as in the past (no Don Byron clarinet, no violin, no accordion), but nothing to disappoint Wilsonís fans either.

(Cassandra Wilson plays the Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Avenue in Boston, this Saturday, February 7, at 8 p.m.; call 617-876-7777.)

BY JON GARELICK


Issue Date: February 6 - 12, 2004
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