Review: Cassandra Wilson “No other audience is going to get this.”

27. April 2014
Ami Kucharek

When Cassandra Wilson enters the stage, the audience starts clapping, already praising the presence of the most amazing jazz voice of our time.

Wilson’s appearance is glamorous although she is just wearing a simple yellow dress. As she starts singing her first song after an exciting instrumental introduction to the concert, a shiver goes throughout the audience. Her voice is mature and absorbing as she plays with its volume and harshness.

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of her album Blue Light Till Dawn, songs like Come on in my kitchen and Another country are being played. Although her first interpretations of these tunes are brilliant, Wilson surprises with her strong, more dramatic voice and her tough attitude, showing how well she developed during the years.

Using the opportunity of spontaneity at a live concert, Wilson instructs the band how to play the upcoming song by talking to them or clapping the rhythm. As if the band was an organism, every member reacts perfectly to the impulses of the others, combining extraordinary soli with an overwhelming interaction of the whole band. As Gregoire Maret is bending his knees while showing his skills on the harmonica, he is playing incredibly fast and he seems to be in a state of trance. His clear sounds are literally so breath taking that he barely colludes with Wilson, as her voice conquers the room back after Maret’s soli.

When Wilson expresses her emotions to You don’t know what love is not only with her voice, but with her mimic and gesture as well, she makes the audience believe in every single word she is singing. The melancholic vibe is underlined by Lonnie Plaxico’s contained bass playing, which stands in perfect relation to John Davis‘ fine, later effervescent drum tunes. As Wilson gives the band freedom to get more experimental, the intuitively harmonic yet edgy sound is thrilling, making the audience feel a certain tension.

A great asset of this concert’s music is the contrast of the clear piano sounds of Jon Cowherd, playing insanely melodic yet diversified while Brandon Ross is abruptly picking the strings of his guitar, giving the tunes a rather rough and sharp sound. This gets especially emphasized when playing the encore song Death letter. The mixture of playing untamed soli and focusing back on the actual rhythmical structure of the song show the fascinating skills of all six musicians.

As Cassandra Wilson and her band leave the stage for the last time and the lights in Tallinn’s Nokia Hall are turned on again, the audience is forced to come back from the small, smoky jazz bar in New Orleans, where they were taken to.


Cassandra Wilson 

April 25 at Nokia Concert Hall


Cassandra Wilson – vocals

Brandon Ross – guitar

Jon Cowherd – piano

Gregoire Maret – harmonica

Lonnie Plaxico – bass

John Davis – drums