Belly of the Sun (Blue Note)
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., March 29, 2002
Cassandra WilsonBelly of the Sun (Blue Note) Cassandra Wilson has no clothes. (Yow!) What she does possess, of course, is one of the thickest, richest, most beguiling voices in contemporary music. Beginning with mid-Eighties post-fusion jazz for avant-traditionalist indie JMT, this sultry daughter of the Mississippi Delta has spent the succeeding two decades vocalizing her link in the great diva chain behind second generation jazz queens like Abbey Lincoln and Betty Carter. Given Belly of the Sun, Wilson's latest Blue Note crossover attempt, once again it seems the singer would prefer the company of New Jack Soulsisters like Indie.Arie. Motown's latest female franchise, in fact, lends her own earthen vibe to Wilson's groovy "Just Another Parade," which like the whole of Belly, anesthetizes the listener into siesta with its waiting-room warmth. The instrumentation is adult radio all the way, but the album's arrangements are jazz, and neither genre is particularly well-served. There are long stretches of lull in this Belly rub. Robbie Robertson's "The Weight," plus a pair of Delta blues, Mississippi Fred McDowell's "You Gotta Move" and Robert Johnson's "Hot Tamales," are well-suited to Wilson's canon of classic rock covers, but Dylan's "Shelter From the Storm" and Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman" are stiff. Antonio Carlos Jobim and Wilson: oil and water. The naked simplicity of "Darkness on the Delta," the singer accompanied only by a piano, works wonders, but "Drunk on Cooter Brown" cries for R&B organ rather than steel pan percussion and mandolin. Time Cassandra Wilson enlisted jazz talent to match her own. Royalty like hers shouldn't be slumming.