Thursday, April 7, 2011

Communing with the music of Cassandra Wilson on a Late, Sleepless Night

By Charles D. Springfield

It was just one of those days: a bit of drama, some laugh out loud moments, some productivity and a whole lot of alone time.

Cassandra Wilson

As the day crept on and the late, late night found me still awake at 3 a.m., I needed a little something. I couldn’t quite put my finger on just what it was. I poured myself some wine and flipped through the channels for something that sparked my interest. Nope, that wasn’t the answer. I pulled up Netflix to see what was available and fascinating in the Instant category. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right amount of energy to commit to something for the next few hours.

Then it hit me. Music, I needed music! I pulled out my collection of CDs – I would have grabbed an iPod but I lost my old one in Chelsea weeks ago – and I was met with some old favorites and one singer in particular, Cassandra Wilson.

I put in Cassandra Wilson’s “New Mood Daughter” in the CD player as background music and let the night take me wherever it wanted. The CD made the night one of those rare occasions when spending huge amounts of time on my own could trump spending a night out on the town.

“New Moon Daughter,” released in 1996, is an eclectic blend of jazz that would satisfy nearly any music lover’s appetite. Wilson has a knack for breathing life into old standards and creating new standards in the jazz category. On this particular CD, she takes you from the harsh and ugly reality of “Strange Fruit” to a soulful and husky rendition of “Last Train to Clarksville.” Her delivery is so sultry and so rich. Her voice always takes me to another state of mind while her song choices escalate me to higher levels of consciousness. It was the perfect ingredient in my night as dawn approached.

Listening to “Love is Blindness,” “Harvest Moon” and Hoagy Carmichael’s classic “Skylark” was like interacting with a dear old friend on the phone. Part of that feeling is because Wilson and I do go way back. She and I attended the same university, just in different decades. We had the same major and both moved to New Orleans after graduating from undergrad. I connected with her, on many levels. She had been with me when I fell in love, was going through a break up, needed to sing my heart out or cry my eyes out. She has been a major part of my life for about 15 years.

Wilson and me in 2001
I even got the chance to meet her once. I’m not one to really get star struck, although I do love a good celebrity encounter. But I was so overwhelmed to have met her knowing the impact she had on my life that I had to take a moment and gather myself for a few minutes.

Tonight was a perfect reminder that music is powerful. Inspiration is powerful. Passions are powerful. Emotions are powerful. Dreams are powerful. And being human enough to appreciate the joys and sadness of life, even through music, makes me feel powerful and encourages me to be open to it all – the good, bad and ugly.

Thank you Ms. Wilson for being my blackbird singing in the dead of night! You took these broken wings and gave me the background music needed to help me learn how to fly – again.

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