Wilson offers Miles of styles

by Erik Tanouye | 4/13/99 5:00am

Two great jazz innovators come together tonight as Cassandra Wilson takes to the Spaulding stage with her tribute to the music of the late Miles Davis.

Wilson is one of a number of current jazz stars who have shocked some fans by adding recent pop numbers to the standard repertoire of jazz songs.

But tonight, Wilson, a talented composer in her own right, will be on somewhat more traditional jazz ground as she plays music written and inspired by Davis.

It is only somewhat more traditional ground because Davis was never one to cater to traditionalists. In fact, Wilson's new "Traveling Miles" album includes a version of the Cyndi Lauper hit "Time After Time," which Davis reappropriated for jazz audiences.

The album also contains music from Davis's fusion-era "Bitches Brew" as well as his more traditional earlier work, such as the ballad "Someday My Prince Will Come."

The album, and tonight's concert, are the result of an unusual six-night engagement at Lincoln Center, New York's architectural Hopkins Center twin.

The resulting album is made up of songs Davis made famous, songs he wrote (with new lyrics by Wilson) and new Wilson compositions.

Wilson's "New Moon Daughter" took home a 1997 Grammy award for "Best Jazz Vocal," and its predecessor "Blue Light 'Til Dawn" also earned a nomination for "Best Jazz Vocalist" in 1995.

Down Beat readers have named Wilson the female vocalist of the year five years running, and the critics have agreed for the last three years.

Although currently a New Yorker, Wilson is a product of the South, born in Mississippi, and the sounds of the Delta blues have played a large role in her works, especially on "New Moon Daughter."

As for Miles, it would be difficult to describe fully his influence on jazz music here, but suffice it to say he is more than worthy of a tribute from such a talent as Wilson.

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