Cassandra Wilson: Polka Dots and Moonbeams


Polka Dots and Moonbeams


Cassandra Wilson (vocals)


Blue Skies (JMT 834419)

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Cassandra Wilson (vocals), Mulgrew Miller (piano), Terri Lyne Carrington (drums),

Lonnie Plaxico (bass)


Composed by James Van Heusen and Johnny Burke


Recorded: New York, February, 1988


Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

Wilson & Co. undertake a major renovation on this old standard. They shift most of the tune into a tiptoeing waltz tempo. But to keep things interesting, they throw in a few bars of 5/4 during the A theme. Johann Strauss would not approve not to mention the "questions in the eyes of other dancers." But the effect provides a neat hook, creating an unexpected delay in the delivery of the melody, and the band milks it for everything it's worth even creating a sudden stop in the flow, hinting at a performance that is heading off the rails. Sometimes these metric tricks distract from the emotional content of a song, but not in this instance. Wilson holds on to the starry-eyed infatuation of the lyrics, even as her bandmates slice and dice the beat like a tomato in the Vegematic ("But wait! There's more!"). All in all, this is a sly updating of a World War II tune that usually gets a saccharine treatment.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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