Spring 2017: vocalist/musician Cassandra Wilson


vocalist/musician CASSANDRA WILSON“A singer blessed with an unmistakable timbre and attack who has expanded the playing field” (Gary Giddins), Cassandra Wilson is a musician, vocalist, songwriter, and producer from Jackson, Mississippi who incorporates blues, country and folk music into her work. Named the 2017 Jazz Master in Residence at Harvard sponsored by the Office for the Arts at Harvard (OFA) and Harvard Jazz Bands (Yosvany Terry and Mark Olson, conductors), Wilson will rehearse and perform with the Jazz Bands, visit Harvard classes and an assembly for students at a Greater Boston public school, and participate in two events open to the public:

Wednesday, April 5, 4 pm: “A Conversation with Cassandra Wilson” moderated by Ingrid Monson, Quincy Jones Professor of African American Music, at the Leverett House Library Theatre, Mill St. (between Plympton and DeWolfe streets). Presented by OFA Learning From Performers. Admission free, tickets/RSVPs not required; seating first-come, first-served, subject to venue capacity.

Saturday, April 8, 8 pm: “Women in Jazz: Celebrating Cassandra Wilson,” featuring the Harvard Jazz Bands with special guest Cassandra Wilson, at Sanders Theatre, 45 Quincy St., Cambridge. Tickets $15, students and seniors $8, available through the Harvard Box Office at Farkas Hall, 10 Holyoke St., or by calling 617.496.2222 (phone and online orders subject to service fees). Free parking is available at the Broadway Garage, 7 Felton St.

Watch the interview with Cassandra Wilson moderated by Eric Jackson, WGBH “Jazz 24/7”
Read the interview by Cherie Hu ’17 on the Harvard Arts Blog​​​​​​​

Cassandra Wilson began playing piano at six, guitar by the age of twelve and was working as a vocalist by the mid-‘70s, singing a wide variety of material. After moving to New York City in the early ‘80s, Cassandra met saxophonist Steve Coleman and became one of the founding members of the M-Base Collective.

At the completion of her stint with M-Base, Cassandra sought a more acoustic context for her vocal expression. She signed with Blue Note Records in 1992 and released a landmark album titled “Blue Light ‘Til Dawn,” which would pave the way for a new generation of jazz singers seeking an approach and repertoire that challenged the supremacy of the American Standard songbook.

Wilson has continued interpreting in fresh and creative ways jazz, vintage blues, country and folk music up until the present day. Her awards include: two Grammys, the Django D’Or, The Edison Music Award, and a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail. She also performed one of the leading roles in Wynton Marsalis’ “Blood on the Fields,” the first jazz work to receive a Pulitzer Prize.

In 2015, Cassandra Wilson joined forces with the prestigious label Legacy, a subsidiary of Sony Music. Her latest project, “Coming Forth By Day,” was released on the 100th anniversary of Billie Holiday’s birth—April 7, 2015.