Lyrics, Master Labs and the Lady with a Red Guitar

Cassandra Wilson and her band perform this Friday at Yellow Scarf Listening Room.

Cassandra Wilson and her band perform this Friday at Yellow Scarf Listening Room.

Several days ago, while mixing up a whole-wheat spice cake, I received a phone call from Grammy Award winning vocalist, Cassandra Wilson. Needless to say, the batter was put on hold. This Friday at Yellow Scarf, Wilson and her band from New York—Brandon Ross on guitar and Gregoire Maret on harmonica—will perform.

Earlier in the day, I listened to “Red Guitar,” the first of ten tracks on Wilson’s most recent album, “Another Country.” Against the backdrop of a warm and breezy afternoon with a luminous sky overhead, her lyrics flowed like a series of snapshots telling the story of life on the road:

“Wash my face with blue water

Lay my head on white linen

Morning come, drink black coffee

Then play my song on red guitar.

Take my flight through blue heavens

Walk my path through green gardens

Drive my car on black highways

Then play my song on red guitar.”

I asked about the poetic inspiration for “Red Guitar,” particularly the colors interspersed like guideposts throughout the song.

“I was writing the song while on tour year before last,” Wilson says. “We were driving along the Cote D’Azur south of France, right before you pass into Italy, and the colors just went BAM— they got more vivid. It was such a beautiful drive. All of those feelings went into the writing of song.”

The simplicity and straightforwardness of the lyrics and melody belies her desire to live life without fear and to not sweat the small stuff.

“I think those are some of my favorite lyrics that I’ve written because they are so simple, and they’re profound at the same time,” Wilson says. “I always look for that in writing—something that stirs the soul, that resonates with us as human beings.”

Wilson is particularly excited about a recent addition to Yellow Scarf Listening Room’s roster of events: the Master Labs.

“One of the objectives of creating Yellow Scarf was to create an environment where younger artists could come in and benefit from the advice and wisdom of the elders,” she says. “That’s something that’s really missing from our community. “

The Master Labs, held on Sunday evenings, are open to students and the general public. During the lab, younger musicians perform their material then receive critique and helpful feedback from jazz musicians Dr. London Branch, Alvin and William Fielder or Wilson herself, depending on who is participating for the evening.

“It’s one thing to go to school and take classes, but there’s no substitute for actual interaction between elders and young folks,” Wilson says. She likens the labs to the jam sessions she went to as a young vocalist in New York City. “Older musicians would be there. They would watch you perform, and they would tutor you and help you along.”

Oct. 26, Cassandra Wilson and her band play two shows at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Yellow Scarf Listening Room (741 Harris St., Suite E, 347-754-0668). Seating is limited. Buy tickets and get info at yellowscarf-jackson.com.


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