Wilson’s own song

American jazz singer Cassandra Wilson will add her strong voice to the Women’s Festival in Holon.

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
February 17, 2012 17:33
4 minute read.
Cassandra Wilson

Cassandra Wilson 311. (photo credit: Courtesy of PR)

 
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This year’s Women’s Festival, which takes place at the Holon Theater from February 22 to February 25, offers an eclectic range of entertainment by female artists from right across the music and theater spectrums, with an additional intriguing documentary film slot. The program takes in a tribute to British 1970s rock group Queen, a salute to Russian poets by Gesher Theater actress Natasha Manor, a theater-plastic arts combination that highlights the price women kibbutz members paid over the years, and the satirical The Secret Blonde show by Irit Linor and Tamar Giladi based on Linor’s long-running newspaper column.

Like every year, the festival features some of our top female performers, with the likes of vocalists Efrat Gosh, Yael Deckelbaum, Dana Berger and Dana Adini proffering the Queen tribute. But the event also does its best to give the next generation a chance to strut its emerging stuff with, for example, a marathon of monologues by female graduates of some of the country’s top acting schools, under the guidance of Hadas Calderon. Twenty-something French-Israeli pop rock vocalist Riff Cohen will also be in Holon next week, and this year’s lineup includes a new documentary film item called I Am You Are, with debut offerings from novice female Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers.

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The foreign draw this time round is 56-year-old American singer Cassandra Wilson. Over the last three decades, Wilson has maintained a high popularity profile with a wide-ranging offering that takes in pop, rock, jazz, country music and much more. All the above are delivered in an unmistakable husky mode that she has made all her own.

As jazz performers in particular talk about the need for young artists to “find their own voice” to set their unique stall out there on the concert and recording circuit, it is interesting to learn how Wilson arrived at her own timbre attack.

“My approach to singing developed over time,” she says. “I was exposed to jazz at a very early age, so from a very early age I was aware of the importance of developing a singular voice in the music. That’s the directive you are given when you decide to exercise this discipline.”

That personalized approach to her craft, says Wilson, is also a product of all the musical background she accumulated as a youngster, both from within and outside the jazz idiom.

Wilson frequently plies a meandering route between different sectors of the music market, which she attributes to her home patch. “I was born and reared in Mississippi. I spent 24 years there, so I am very much accustomed to different genres of music,” she notes.

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Indeed, that part of the Deep South of the United States has proven to be a fertile breeding ground for many strains of American music in the 20th century. “I am used to incorporating those styles into my own personal style,” Wilson continues. “Mississippi is the foundation for popular music in America.”

That is self-evident from Wilson’s discography which, besides her own original scores, includes covers of material written by such diverse sources as legendary blues man Robert Johnson, preeminent jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, iconic singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, 1960s pop group The Monkees and country music star Hank Williams.

While Wilson’s current output has a definite mass appeal element to it, when she arrived on the New York scene in the mid-1980s she initially hooked up with M-Base Collective, a loose group of young African- American musicians, which included saxophonists Steve Coleman and Greg Osby, pianist Geri Allen and trombonist Robin Eubanks, and offered a new sound and specific ideas about creative expression.

Wilson says that her stint with the Collective had an enduring impact on her subsequent work. “When I moved to New York and joined Steve Coleman very early on, I joined MBase because I wanted to challenge myself musically. In M-Base I found a revolutionary approach to the performance of music and creating the music. It intrigued me. What I learned from it is the importance of stepping outside of the box and challenging the status quo. That, I believe, is a very important part of being an artist.”

Wilson has evidently done a good job in following her own path through the various domains of the music scene, achieving impressive record sales returns and picking up a couple of Grammys in the process.

The singer says she is particularly pleased to come here to perform at the Women’s Festival. She comes across as a strong personality and says that while increasing numbers of female jazz artists are carving out a niche for themselves, the world of jazz is still predominantly male.

“That’s probably why most of the jazz vocalists are women – because it is hard for them to find opportunities as instrumentalists,” Wilson observes, adding that it makes it all the more enjoyable for her to play at the Holon event. “There are more and more women’s festivals now, which is great, as it shows the other side of the music. Women are becoming a more dominant force, in jazz in particular.

It’s great that there are more and more people who want to highlight women artists.”

Female artists will certainly be front and center at our Women’s Festival in Holon next week.

For tickets and more information about the Women’s Festival: (03) 502- 3001 and www.hth.co.il

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