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Cassandra Wilson Releases 'Thunderbird'


Cassandra Wilson is one of today's most-respected jazz vocalists. That's interesting, because Cassandra Wilson's jazz is unlike anyone else's.

Cassandra Wilson is anything but predictable. While her work has caused a stir, the jazz world was quick to jump on the Cassandra Wilson bandwagon. Releasing her first album 13 years ago, Cassandra avoided the traditional route to commercial jazz success by holding firm to her roots in pop and Delta blues. Having not stayed on the straight and narrow, she's earned a supportive worldwide following, a Grammy Award, and the freedom to write, produce and record whatever she wants.

On her latest album Thunderbird, Cassandra gives a tip of the hat to her Southern upbringing by way of a haunting rendition of the blues standard "C. C. Rider," renamed "Easy Rider."

Thunderbird marks Cassandra's first outing with producer T-Bone Burnett, who earned a Grammy Award for his work on the best-selling soundtrack album O Brother, Where Art Thou? Cassandra calls him "a great producer who uses personal techniques in the studio to get the sounds he wants to get." That might explain why the album sounds more roots than jazz.

It's no secret that jazz has been taking a more personal direction in recent years. With younger artists incorporating their own influences, from pop and rock to folk and blues, jazz has become music's "melting pot," and that trend is likely here to stay.

One of Cassandra Wilson's musical heroes was Joni Mitchell, whose influence can be heard on this original composition about a psychic reading titled "Tarot," featuring Cassandra on lead vocals and guitar.

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