This was an album I listened to a lot in the mid 90's, when I was first doing long tours.(Remember portable CD players? And remember those big books of CDs people would lug around, and somebody would always leave one on a plane or something?)I recently pulled this album out again and put it on in the car. I appreciate it even more now, for a variety of reasons. First of all, Wilson is blessed with a truly distinctive voice; one note is all you need to know it's her. Her voice is fairly low for a female voice, and it's husky, but still flexible and buoyant.(I asked Wilson if she did any vocal exercise or practice. "No, I don't really practice", she admitted." I smoke cigarettes....")
Also worth noting is Wilson's scat soloing. During my tenure in her band, I felt that Wilson was reluctant to scat. Indeed, in the wrong hands, jazz scat singing can easily annoy and detract. However, Wilson sings a tasty solo on "I Didn't Know What Time It Was"; it's more instinct than theory, but Wilson's ears take her to the right notes all the way through. Furthermore, even on the expected sensitive ballads, Wilson delivers the lyrics in a personal way. Check out "Autumn Nocturne"; it's breathtaking.
|Lauper, then and now|
I've told this story a number of times, so I figure one more time won't hurt. When I toured the U.S. with Wilson in 2000, one of the stops was to be Carnegie Hall in New York. We were told that we would have a special guest for part of the show: 80's pop star Cyndi Lauper. Apparently, Wilson and Lauper had met somewhere and Lauper admitted that she really liked Wilson's version of "Time After Time." So Wilson invited her to be on the Carnegie Hall performance. A rehearsal was planned. Lauper showed up, looking more like a dressed down Queens soccer mom than a glitzy pop idol. and her accent was REALLY Queens (She's originally from Ozone Park). She almost sounded like Fran Drescher from "The Nanny"! So after some introductions and pleasantries, the rehearsal began. I wish I had recorded it because at one point, Wilson and Lauper tried to write a song, and kind of batted some ideas around while the band laid down a groove. It never solidified, but it was fascinating to watch two singers from vastly different worlds try to collaborate.
At one point, Lauper suggested that we do "Blue And Green", except that she would sing the melody and Cassandra Wilson would sing "Blue Skies" as a counterpoint. This was weird because "Blue And Green" is a 10 bar tune, while "Blue Skies" is a 32 bar standard. We ended up using this in the performance, and I don't know how or why this ended up working, but it worked. Again, I wish I had recorded this, because it will probably never happen again in history.
After the performance, my father took us to the nearby Russian Tea Room to celebrate. As we enjoyed our blueberry blintzes, my father, born in 1943 in Brooklyn, asked, "So...who was that woman who came out on stage in the middle of the show?"
"Uhh....that was Cyndi Lauper!"
"You know, the singer from the 80's?"
"You know, 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun'?"
|"Girls...they wanna have Fu---hun....."|
"Never heard of it."
"Uhhhh, OK.....I guess, for your generation..." I struggled to think,"it would be like, if somebody like, say Bob Dylan came out as a guest." I had missed my target. My father was an earlier generation. I should have said Bobby Darin.