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Sounds of the Delta

Jazz enthusiasts have two reasons to smile this spring. The third annual San Francisco Jazz festival has kicked off its four-month celebration of classic and innovative jazz concerts, films and panel discussions this month. The second reason is Grammy award winning vocalist/songwriter Cassandra Wilson has released a new Album, “Belly of the Sun.”

Set to release Tuesday March 26, Wilson gave the overly anxious that packed in the Masonic Auditorium on Saturday, March 23 a sample of what to expect.

Barefoot and dressed in a chiffon sea green assemble, with blond dreadlocks swaying, Wilson seductively delivered each new song with her contralto voice wrapped around each note. Rich rhythms of the conga drums accompanied by melodic strumming of the acoustic guitar delivered a provocative mix of willowy blues.

Newly written songs and artistic interpretations of material by other songwriters and collaborations with various artists can be found on ” The Belly Of The Sun.” One collaboration in particular was with 83-year-old blues piano player, “Boogaloo” Ames from the Mississippi Delta. Before performing the finished piece, Wilson joked, ” This song is inspired by an 83 year old piano player from the delta. You’ve probably never heard of him, but he is famous to me.”

Born in Jackson, Mississippi, this song and others paid homage to Wilson’s roots. “When there’s darkness in the delta,” bellowed Wilson, “only heaven is in sight, no one’s heart is heavy.” It is no surprise that the bulk of the album was recorded in the Mississippi Delta.

Wilson moved sinuously on stage, coyly supporting her band as they gave chill evoking solo performances. Clearly , Wilson had her audience enraptured as she entertained both musically and comically.

In between sets, she jokingly mocked the people that who strolled in late. “Are there still people coming in?” she asked. “You all have already missed a quarter of the show, but you’re always welcome.”

The last set came too early it seemed, after Wilson ended with a crowd favorite titled, “Koota Brown” which describes the euphoric state of drunkenness. A standing ovation marked the audiences adoration of Wilson’s rich vocals.

Wilson’s performance was part of Jazz Women series that honored women’s history month by highlighting the substantial contributions women made to Jazz. The event kicked off the spring season of the San Francisco Jazz Festival.