The timbre of Cassandra Wilson’s voice is like an opal—incomparably beautiful, deliciously pearlescent, graceful, rich, and eternally strong. On She Who Weeps, originally recorded in 1990 and rereleased last January, lyrics bare little importance. The descriptive quality of words takes a back seat to Wilson’s innate ability to instantly create an atmosphere and strike emotional chords merely by spreading her lips and exercising her larynx.
The disc starts off with a romp through Wilson’s own composition “Iconic Memories.” The slight reverb on her voice contributes a sort of sonic aura to the sound, and when vocal overdubbing emerges at the end, the music becomes fiery yet ethereal. Rod Williams on piano, Kevin Bruce Harris on electric bass and Tani Tabbal on drums combine their energetic playing for some ecstatically spirited sounds.
On Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge” she sings freely over Williams’ piano, Reggie Washington’s electric bass and Mark Johnson’s drums, unraveling the endless dimensions of that intensely saturated palette she culls so easily from deep within.
The spastic drum machine of “Out Loud” enhances the poignant guitar chords in the title track. Slow and concentrated Jean-Paul Bourelly casts an undulating rhythm around Wilson’s soothing vocals. She keeps time with a shimmering smash of a tambourine.
The wave crests at track 6, “Body And Soul,” as Wilson and Williams voice the melody together. They build the momentum until it breaks and falls into a swinging plateau of changing tempos, broiling bass lines and existential vocals.
Seven tracks, 40 minutes, all adorned with vivid panache and breezy flare. An effortlessly consumable disc, there’s no reason why She Who Weeps should incite any tears at all. In fact you might even come away a little bit happier.
Visit Winter & Winter on the web.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .
Personnel: Rod Williams: Piano;
Cassandra Wilson: Vocals;
Jean-Paul Bourelly: Guitar;
Herman Fowlkes: Bass;
Kevin Bruce Harris: Bass;
Tani Tabbal: Drums;
Reggie Washington: Bass;
Mark Johnson: Drums.