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Cassandra Wilson

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Cassandra Wilson was born in Jackson Mississippi on December 4, 1955. She started singing and performing by the age of five when she sang at her brother’s kindergarten graduation. By the age of nine she began playing the piano and the guitar. In eleventh grade she got the leading role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. During her last years of high school, Wilson formed a musical group with a couple of young white men, even though there was racial tension, she saw music as a way for people to come together. By the mid-70s she was working as a vocalist singing diverse kinds of material. After getting her degree in mass communication from Jackson State University, Cassandra moved from Mississippi to New Orleans and worked as an assistant in Public Affairs at a local television station.

In 1982 Wilson moved to New York, where she met with Steve Coleman and became M-Base Collective’s main vocalist. Then she worked with New Air and recorded her first album fronting the band in 1985. By 1993 she had sung on ten albums produced by  JMT records with a wide variety of New York musicians, including Mulgrew Miller and Greg Osby. By her third album she was often compared to artists like Betty Carter, Nina Simone, and Shirley Horn, whom she also considers to be some of her musical influences.

Cassandra in addition of being considered the finest jazz vocalist of her generation by many critics, she has been given several awards during the course of her musical career. She was selected for the 1997 Governor’s Award for excellence in the Arts of Jackson Mississippi. Her tour Blood on the Fields was nominated for a Grammy for best vocal performance. Her album New Moon Daughter granted her a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocalist. Cassandra also won the Downbeat’s  “Singer of the Year” title in 1994 and in 1995 and the same title in the Critic poll in 1996 for her album Blue Light Til’Dawn. Her albums, Blue Skies and New Moon Daughter, have topped the US jazz charts.

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