- Jackson State University
Cassandra Wilson is an American jazz musician, vocalist, songwriter, and producer from Jackson, Mississippi. She is also a class of 1973 graduate of Murrah High School. After obtaining a degree from Jackson State University in mass communications, Wilson moved from Mississippi to New Orleans and worked as an assistant in Public Affairs at a local television station. In 1982, Wilson moved to New York.
Described by critic Gary Giddins as "a singer blessed with an unmistakable timbre and attack who has expanded the playing field" by incorporating blues, country, and folk music into her work. She began playing piano at six, guitar by the age of twelve, and was working as a vocalist by the mid-'70s, singing a wide variety of material. After moving to New York City in the early 80s, Cassandra met saxophonist Steve Coleman and became one of the founding members of the M-Base Collective.
At the completion of her stint with M-Base, Cassandra sought a more acoustic context for her vocal expressions. She signed with Blue Note Records in 1992 and released a landmark album titled “Blue Light ‘Til Dawn” which would pave the way for a new generation of jazz singers seeking an approach and repertoire that challenged the supremacy of the American Standard songbook.
Wilson has continued interpreting jazz, vintage blues, country, and folk music in fresh and creative ways to the present day. Her awards include two Grammys, the Django D’Or, The Edison Music Award, and a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail. In March 2022, Wilson was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Fellowship. She also performed one of the leading roles in Wynton Marsalis' "Blood on the Fields," the first jazz work to receive a Pulitzer Prize.
In 2015, Cassandra Wilson joined forces with the prestigious label, Legacy, a subsidiary of Sony Music. Her project, Coming Forth By Day, was released on the 100th anniversary of Billie Holiday's birth - April 7, 2015.
Wilson launched a new site called reallycassandraradio.com to develop a more direct relationship with her audience. A section of the site, Secret Garden, is specifically designed for listeners who would like to access selections from her published and unpublished catalog.
The Mississippi Blues Trail’s 100th marker was named in honor of the Grammy Award-winning jazz artist. The unveiling of the historic marker was held Thursday, January 7, 2010, at Brinkley Middle School. “This is the most beautiful plaque I’ve ever seen,” said Wilson, in awe, as the curtain was pulled to reveal the marker, which on one side displayed a depiction of her life from a little girl to the present. During her remarks, she told the crowd that Mississippi’s music has had an influence around the world. She says blues is the root of nearly all music forms from jazz to rock-n-roll.