Cassandra Wilson Live at Central Park Summerstage

Ernest Barteldes By

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Cassandra Wilson
Central Park Summerstage, Rumsey Playfield
New York, NY
June 15, 2007

Following trumpeter and singer Olu Dara, who charmed the audience with his laid-back approach, Cassandra Wilson (who dueted with Dara during his closing number) took the stage with a six-piece band that featured pianist Cyrus Chestnut and bassist Reginald Veal. They kicked off the show with an instrumental piece led by Chestnut that was woven into Wilson's version of "Sweet Georgia Brown," which included a Latinesque piano riff and fine chops from her backing band. Wilson also ad-libbed a bit of the Billie Holiday hit "Miss. Brown To You as the song closed.

"We aren't doing an ordinary set list tonight, she said as she addressed the crowd that filled Rumsey Playfield in Central Park. "We are doing something coming from your energy.

She went on to "Shall We Dance," which took full advantage of Chestnut's chops as Wilson sang in a manner that fit like a glove with the pianist's style. They both had big smiles directed toward each other, reveling in the musical chemistry that emanated from the stage.

Miles Davis was responsible for making Cyndi Lauper's pop hit "Time After Time a jazz favorite, and the tune has since been recorded by many artists of the genre. In Wilson's hands, the song became a soul piece. The audience received the song well, many singing along to the familiar lyrics.

Another highlight of the evening was Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies," for which she sang the intro and just allowed the bandmembers to improvise around the melody. Chestnut's command of the keys is nothing short of that of a virtuoso, as he played both strongly and subtly while the band followed his lead. Reginald Veal also contributed an impressive solo, which brought the tune to a close.

A favorite of the audience was "Solomon's Son," which was repeatedly requested by fans. Wilson obliged, and received loud applause in response.

She closed the show with "Easy Rider," a tune from her latest disc, Thunderbird (Blue Note), which features a slide guitar that takes you straight back to the banks of the Mississippi River.

Watching Cassandra Wilson on stage was a treat—she was extremely cheerful, and seemed happy to be performing at an outdoor concert. The sound was well mixed, and listeners could hear every note clearly wherever they were watching from. It was a memorable night, leaving a sweet aftertaste and great expectations for the upcoming shows on this Summerstage season.


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