Cassandra Wilson – Thunderbird

Cassandra Wilson
(Blue Note – 2006)
by Carmen Miller

Much like Lizz Wright, another vocalist known for her jazz licks, Cassandra Wilson makes a drastic change of direction with her new release Thunderbird. Those of you looking for the usual Cassandra can go elsewhere because this is more pop/folk than jazz and, quite honestly, I had to play the whole CD just to see where it was going to go from one track to the next.

Don’t get me wrong, Cassandra still has that beautiful, husky voice and her great sense of timing and delivery… it’s just that what’s being delivered is not really what I expected, or wanted, from Cassandra Wilson. There are some really soulful blues tunes (It would be easy, I want to be loved) and many other tracks that I’m hesitant to try and assign to particular genres… but I found none of the smooth and jazzy Cassandra I sought when I played the CD.

Blue Note teamed Cassandra up with “O Brother Where Art Thou?” producer T Bone Burnett who is reportedly responsible for this startling departure from the norm. All I could say after the second listening was Oh JAZZ Where Art Thou! The blue tracks are great and Cassandra is as soulful and rich and wonderful as ever but if I wanted Blues I’d listen to Etta james. If I wanted alternative, folksy music I’d listen to Tracy Chapman. I wanted jazz and I didn’t get it.