Jasmine / Cassandra Wilson

Tropical Breeze

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When Tropical Breeze was recorded in New Orleans in 1980, Cassandra Wilson had yet to record as a solo artist or become a major name in jazz. But those who were hip to the singer back then knew that she had a lot of potential, and that included the other members of the Brazilian-oriented jazz-pop band Jasmine. In a perfect world, Wilson's brief stint as Jasmine's lead singer would have brought her commercial success. But Jasmine was obscure, and it wasn't until the '90s that Wilson finally received the type of attention that she deserved. It's safe to say that many of the singer's fans have never heard of Jasmine or Tropical Breeze, which was originally released on LP by Inner City and finally made its debut on CD when Japan's P-Vine label reissued it in 2002. But the album's obscurity doesn't make it any less enjoyable. Even in 1980, Wilson was striving for originality -- and on Tropical Breeze, she sounds like an interesting combination of Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter, Joni Mitchell, and Nina Simone (among others). Wilson, who was 24 at the time, still had some growing and developing to do; even so, one hears a great deal of promise when Jasmine features her on gems by Brazilian heavyweights like Milton Nascimento ("Cravo e Canela," "Rio Vermelho") and Chico Buarque ("Partido Alto"). It should be noted that Wilson doesn't sing the original Portuguese lyrics on any of these songs; instead, she embraces rare English lyrics that were provided by Ron Cuccia. Wilson lays out on a few instrumentals (including a dreamy performance of Ernesto Lecuona's "Malaguena"), although Jasmine features her on most of the songs. In 1980, Wilson's best work was yet to come, but Tropical Breeze is an interesting footnote in her career.

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