Cassandra Wilson/Regina Carter/Bela Fleck: This Land Is Your Land
This Land Is Your Land
Jazz Hear and Now! (Jazz Alliance International D2-83507)
Composed by Woody Guthrie.
Recorded: New York, December 2001
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
What a joy! The serendipity of this performance (recorded at a post-9/11 "Made in America" concert) and its inclusion on an obscure CD constitute a little-known blessing for fans of Jazz, Americana, Woody Guthrie, the brilliant artists involved, and musical good times in general. The spirited conga drummer goes uncredited, but otherwise it's a who-could-imagine-it trio: vocalist extraordinaire Cassandra Wilson, jazz-plus violinist Regina Carter, and cross-culture banjo-supremo Bela Fleck uniting for a one-off performance of America's other national anthem, "This Land Is Your Land."
Let not your mind be boggled; just sit back and enjoy, or get up and dance, because the arrangement moves from banjo-backed folk ballad to cross-the-country toetapper in no time at all, flowing smoothly via Carter's yearning, churning strings, braced and gently buffetted by Fleck's brusque five-string. The combination is startling, and Wilson's sultry, Delta-dusky voice rides it all with stops and starts, inventive line readings and melisma magic.
For eight minutes, Guthrie's social-justice song metamorphoses from dust-bowl lament to ribbon-of-highway instrumental dance, and then to shout-it-out song of pride for people of all races, culminating in the stirring, often ignored penultimate verse--the sign that reads "No Trespassing/Private Property," except that "On the back side it didn't say nothin'." Wilson finishes with the quieter "This land was made for you and me," rather than the rarely heard, more aggressive alternate: "That side was meant for you and me." But either way, on that night in 2001, progressive politics stepped into jazz's big tent.
Reviewer: Ed Leimbacher