Coming Forth by Day, Cassandra Wilson, review by Barry O’Sullivan

coming forth by day

Album: Coming Forth by Day
Artist:   Cassandra Wilson
Release Date: 2015

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Coming Forth By Day(Legacy Recordings) features eleven re- interpretations of The Great American Songbook associated with Billie Holiday (both “standards” and Holiday originals) plus Cassandra Wilson’s  original “Last Song (For Lester),” conceived as an homage from Billie to her musical soulmate, Lester Young. Wilson recorded the album in Los Angeles at the Seedy Underbelly studios with guitarists T Bone Burnett and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the rhythm section from The Bad Seeds – drummer Thomas Wydler and bassist Martyn P. Casey.

This is not jazz as we know it! Wilson’s interpretations of Billie’s much lauded classics possess originality, with a few very brief improvisational solos, but the appeal of her re-imaginings and her vocal style are not what’s typical of jazz vocals, and may be extremely limited both with her fans and in jazz circles.

There are ten standards and one original on this well-trodden path, sadly proving that it is a difficult task to make ‘the old’ ‘new again’ effectively without gimmicks.

While “All of Me”, “These Foolish Things” and “I’ll Be Seeing You,” are the most traditional like pieces, with Wilson’s low register employed to the very maximum, why give the Van Dyke Parks string treatments to “You Go To My Head”, “The Way You Look Tonight” and “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” when they seem excessive and out of context to the rest of the album? “Good Morning Heartache” is five minutes of the most excruciating version of The Great American Songbook classic, and along with Billie’s “Strange Fruit” ,(almost unrecognisable with its rock band re-imagining) is the final nail in the coffin of this album’s drawn-out death.

Wilson may have alienated the many fans of her intended vocal soulmate, and unhappily even her own captured, adoring audience, by being a little too clever with something that didn’t need fixing.

Sigh… I think Billie would shudder.

Barry OSullivan is the Producer/Presenter of a national music program A Jazz Hour now approaching its fourteenth year on the national Community Radio Network making it one the longest running jazz music programs on the FM Airwaves. Barry also produces and presents a variety of jazz programs for Sydney digital radio station FINE MUSIC Digital and reviews jazz music recordings for the international webpage, All About Jazz, and Fine Music Magazine. Barry strongly supports Australian jazz and contemporary improvised music from his home base in The Blue Mountains, NSW.