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Cassandra Wilson: Silver Pony

C. Michael Bailey By

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Track review of "Saddle Up My Pony"

Brilliant in spite of its ragged texture, Cassandra Wilson's Silver Pony justly illuminates the important influence Wilson has had on all jazz vocals, since her artistic breakthrough with 1993's Blue Light 'Til Dawn (Blue Note). A sharp solution of live and studio performances, Silver Pony reveals the depth and breadth of both Wilson's enigmatic singing and instrumentation, that rich Delta organic approach disseminating throughout all of jazz vocals of the past 20 years. Always close to the blues, Wilson puts forth an extended live "Saddle Up My Pony," originally recorded by Charlie Patton in 1929, that succinctly frames her earthy method.

Humid as a Mississippi thunderstorm, Marvin Sewell's dependable bottleneck guitar sets up a nervous vibe as deep as a cotton row and soulfully sanctified as the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio on a dusty August afternoon. Wilson summons all of her considerable talents and influences in transforming this canonical piece into a soul serenade. Pianist Jon Batiste adds piquant seasoning, a musical pilgrim who finds his place at the same time that Sewell begins his Southern grotesque solo. Sewell emerges as perhaps the most important element in Wilson's sound; it is magic that Wilson and her band conjure here. Be careful, the mojo is strong and the gris- gris molten.

Personnel: Cassandra Wilson: vocals, synthesizer; Jonathan Batiste: piano; Marvin Sewell: electric guitar; Reginald Veal: electric bass; Herlin Riley: drums; Lekan Babalola: percussion.

Title: Silver Pony | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


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