Album: Cassandra Wilson, Loverly (Blue Note)

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The Independent Culture

Like Joan Wasser, Cassandra Wilson has opted for a simpler format than her previous album, Thunderbird, on which T Bone Burnett applied his sonic seasonings to her jazz stylings.

The effect, though, is less appealing. For Loverly, she reverts to the bread-and-butter of traditional jazz vocals, with a set almost entirely comprised of standards recorded with a small combo featuring the exploratory piano of Jason Moran and the diffident guitar of Marvin Sewell. The decisive player, however, is Nigerian percussionist Lekan Babalola, whose polyrhythmic flurries perk up Duke Ellington's "Caravan" and a version of "Gone With the Wind" whose elegant unison guitar and piano recalls Steely Dan.

He's at the heart of "Arere", inspired by the Yoruban god of willpower, on which Wilson could be singing in a native dialect, or scatting. She's typically tasteful throughout, whether speeding up "St James Infirmary" into a funky groove, or slowing down "Dust My Broom"; and mercifully, there's no Eliza Doolittle bogus cockernee accent on the title track.

Pick of the album:'Caravan', 'St James Infirmary', 'Gone With the Wind', 'Arere'

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