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New York Awards 2002

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Cassandra Wilson, Music

Cassandra Wilson can feel the past and see the future. She also has the voice and the intelligence to carry listeners along her eclectic journey from the Delta blues, through Abbey Lincoln and the Monkees, and up into some distant sci-fi galaxy. This year's Wilson album, Belly of the Sun, was characteristically seductive and expansive, including tunes from Dylan, Jobim, and Robert Johnson and backing that ranged from bouzouki to a Manhattan children's choir. Critics complain that Wilson is more jazzy than jazz, but the 47-year-old thankfully isn't listening. Raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Wilson moved to Harlem in the early eighties and now lives with her 13-year-old son in Tribeca. "Harlem is the center of the black universe," she says. "And my music is based on doing justice to what I came from, keeping the ancestors always in mind, but also remembering that jazz has to be a current music for its survival. It has to be grounded in our lives as they are today. Living in New York, you're surrounded by the history and by the now." -- CHRIS SMITH


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