Cassandra Wison(CW), the two time Grammy award winning jazz musician, vocalist, songwriter et al, is back with ‘Coming Forth By Day’’ an album dedicated to Billie Holiday(BH) and her craft. The songs are either standards sung or written by BH( this year is indeed her centennial) and so one could maybe expect some sort of lackluster homage by this seemingly comfortable setup, but there is nothing predictable about Cassandra Wilson’s effort.

For a start Nick Launay is on helm as producer and as his work on albums by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds might suggest, mood and atmosphere, quirkiness and lots of space are allowed into the mix and CW seems to revel in it. There is seduction and danger in the vocal inflections of CW for much of the album, the ode to BH not being in the manner of replication, where one artist tries to connect to the heart of the other artist with a passionate cover of the songs, but in this case, it’s a journey to the soul of Billie Holiday.

Weight is given to specific words and phrases, evidently considered poignant by Cassandra, trying to explore the psyche of BH. The songs are generally in a jazz style, mixed with superb string arrangements making it generally a treat especially as Nick manages to take off excess polish and glitter, that jazz set ups can have making them bland somewhat, adjusting it with his slightly warped vision.

There are some gems on the album. ‘Don’t Explain’ is the first cut, a broody version CW sounding like a female Bob Dylan with weird mumbling outbursts that pleasantly surprise and haunt the listener.

‘Crazy He Calls me’ is all breathy and sexy with wonderful piano interjections; a pure love drug.

‘You Go To My Head’ is wonderful pop, with a strings hook that ties you up, spellbound by the dreamy production.

‘These Foolish Things’, a song still able to impress especially with this sparsely arranged set up that has gentle sublime guitar, Cassandra’s vocals almost in the background as if a ghost singing about a distant love affair.

‘Strange Fruit’ too is a challenge easily won with the captivating chorus that could fit on side 2 of ‘Abbey Road’ it’s that good.
All in all ‘Come Forth By Day’ is an album that belongs in any and everybody’s vinyl or download collection.

If the premise may have seemed predictable the outcome is not and another layer to the sheltered world of Billie Holliday is unveiled.