Cassandra Wilson: Polka Dots and Moonbeams
Polka Dots and Moonbeams
Cassandra Wilson (vocals)
Blue Skies (JMT 834419)
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