tv Talk to Al Jazeera Al Jazeera March 26, 2016 4:30am-5:01am EDT
well worth saving plenty more news, of course, whenever you want it on our website. aljazeera.com. you can talk to everyone on the teams here. teams here. this week on talk to al jazeera grammy winning cassandra wilson >> singing it from the heart, telling a story she was in a home filled with jazz, she played the piano followed by the guitar and was
working by the mid 70s >> there was something that was missing in my life she incorporated folk music in her songs >> i bring disparate elements together and realising common ground. i think it is important to do that musically and i think it is important for us to do that in the world she left jackson more than 30 years ago but says the delta is an important part of who she is >> there is a certain creative that you drop as a result of all of the pressure that there is in being and living here she comes from the linage of billy ho already beening liday. she pay-- holliday. she has
a touch of her own in her music. i caught up with her at jenny's supper club. so good to see you. >> thank you so much we should share with the audience that we have a connection, same home town, a lot of same friends >> yes and i'm a huge fan >> thank you let's talk about home. what kind of musical influences did you have growing up? >> so many. the home was filled with instruments because my father was a musician and he had a huge jazz collection. so i listened to mile davis to hank williams. during the 70s you had to listen to r & b wokj. >> yeah. you work, you ride i understand that your blews.
>> not a lot. there was not a lot of traditional delta blues. i don't think there was many, actually why was that? >> my father had this idea about the blues being, how to put it, it was a rather common form of music. he was a great propose opponent of jazz because it is a complex form and you have to be extrem extremely-- so -- sophisticated? >> yes. that's true you say your house was filled with instruments. what did your dad play? >> he started off on the violin and then he picked up the
trumpet and played in the army band during world war ii and then he went from the trumpet to the guitar and that was the first instrument i remember him playing when i was young. then he went from the guitar to the base and he played base. most people know him as playing the base which did you pick up first? >> i didn't pick it up. you can't pick up a piano. that was my first instrument. i went to someone's house with my parents and they had one and i just fell in love with it. my mother tells me the story that i started playing on the piano instantly. i was about 3 or 4 years old guitar? >> i was about 12 years old did you know at that time musician? >> i think at that time i felt
as if i were a musician already 12? >> yes. i started to write, not sing so much, you know, as - i can't describe it. it's like what you do when you write little songs. i call them little songs did you major in music? >> no. i had studied music all of my life, so it was just kind of redundant to go into college and get a degree. my mother actually encouraged me to get a degree in something else. she said "you know music. why do you need a degree because you've been doing it since you were 5 years old" why is it important for you birth? >>
that's a great question. i never left. i really never felt as if i could say that i was a new yorker. whenever anyone asked me, where are you from, well, the natural thing to say would be mississippi. i didn't leave there until i was about 25 years old. i've lived longer out of the area, but still the memories are so strong there i know that you had a musical group. was it high school? or college? >> there were always little musical groups the one i'm talking about is the one where you were playing dillon and riche havens and jonie mitchell. those?
>> the times. if was the 70s, late 60s, so you play the music of the times. i don't know if you remember back - well, of course you do. f m radio stations used to play different genres of music and it would be on one station. so if you were listening to a certain station, you might hear bob dillon and then someone would turn around and play james brown. there was not that kind of delineation between genres as you have now how did you find yourself in the north-east? >> by accident. i married a gentleman who was from baltimore, but his uncle had just been elected the mayor of eastern ranch and this was in 1980 something. i can't remember when.
we travelled to east orange. i had a job at a television station, wbsu and i left that job to go with my husband because he had become the public relations director for his uncle so you get up to new york. i assume you're looking for a job in communications. >> yes difficult to find. >> very different -- very difficult how did you get your music career started? >> because i couldn't find a job in television. i went back to the music. i thought i had to do something. i couldn't be the traditional housewife, which was what was expected of me being part of a political family. i enjoyed being a housewife, but there was something missing. so i started to go out and go to the jam sessions that they used
to have a lot of in new york and that's when i started meeting other musicians and it got gigs. we played in the original red rooster you have been described as someone who has a very unique voice. is that something that you deliberately worked on or a god-given gift? >> i think it's a little bit of both. i think you have to have a desire to create a unique voice in order to have one. everyone comes into the world with their unique voice. the question is do you know how to develop it. it takes a lot of work to do that. there are a lot of influences that you have to allow in your singular voices based on all of those, but not imitating. i don't know if that makes sense influences.
>> there's so many. the first was actually an instrumentalist miles davis. i heard sketches of spain when it came out. i was maybe about six years old. i believe it was released in 1960. so in between being five and six years old. [ ♪ ] >> and that was the music that just really expanded my consciousness. if you can imagine the toddler living to that kind of music and going, wow, what is that later you did an album. >> a tribute to miles davis i know every song on that, but do you have one song that you always want to include? >> the voodoo one run the
voodoo down. >> yeah. it's a very strong piece that arose from that project, so that piece lingers ebony lincoln was a strong influence >> yes what did you clean from her? >> abby lincoln was a creativity lyricist. >> she would go right to the heart with her voice. i learned a lot about just taking off all of the froo-froo. i call it that. just focusing on what you need to say when you talk about
froo-froo with respect to music, what do you mean? >> i mean showing off your agility, showing off your shops, singing something for the sake of showing that you can do it as opposed to? >> singing it from the heart, telling a story and singing it from the heart that's what you like about billy holiday. >> yes your release is a tribute to her, coming forth by day. tell me about her legacy and why you decided to focus on her. >> there's a wonderful article that i read and it is called the hunting of her. there's so much about her life that we don't know, it's all surrounded in all of this selatiousness. it is about her addiction or the
man that she was with her whatever, but they don't really focus very much on her artistry. it is if she is a primitive creation who was able to sing the way that she did, that she had this natural instinct for the music. she was much more than that. she was a great musician. she was an incredible interpreter of the stories don't explain. >> don't explain, yes what is that about? >> it's about telling your musts or your lover that no matter what happens i'm going to be here for you you don't have to explain whatever you're doing >> where you don't have to explain.
explain. >> when i sing it , it's more i do a little twist on the lyric and say that you don't have to explain, but if i catch you doing it again, there's hell to pay. there's a little twist there so you changed the lyrics r >> slightly. in the lyric that billy sings, you get the sense she is a victim. i'm not the victim you're laying down the law >> yes strange fruit. as we know, it's a song that is connected to a horrible legacy
in america of black men being lynched, hung on trees publicly to be seen. many people would like to believe that that's a part of our past. what do you say? >> i say it's very much a part of our present. the rachl is subtle, not as obvious. then again there are places where it is quite obvious-- racism. we still have to wrestle with the problems that we have here in america with racism. so really i don't think that much has changed. so when you're selecting the music that you're going to perform, are you doing it in part because of its social meaning as well as what it represents for you musically? >> yeah. i think that enters into it because you can't separate what it represents musically from what it represents socially. they kind of blend together in
my mind, in the way that i absorb music. i don't separate the music from the content you are watching talk to al jazeera. more in a minute. >> al jazeera america - proud of telling your stories. >> i wanted to dance, and eventually i started leaving the gangs in the street alone. >> we're pushing the envelope with out science every day, we can save species. >> i'm walking you guys! >> all i wanted to see was her walk. it was amazing. >> these were emotions that i had been dreaming about for so long. >> getting to the heart of the matter. proud to tell your stories. al jazeera america.
artist cassandra wilson you've been described as someone who has been a peace maker between jazz and other genres. in this kwoelt they were talking about rock of. -- quote. genre bending jazz diva. what do you think about that? >> i love the idea about bending things, bending reality. that is always fascinating to me. i don't know if i care for the word "diva" i saw this song and i thought what was it about and it was an awesome polyrhythmic thing going and you started to
sing a song about someone who died. this is something that i've read that you find a connection to your dad. now, explain that, please. how a song entitled death letter connects you to your father? >> because of the emotion that you tap into, you remember. the cooling board is where the body cools. i remember when my father passed away, he was at the college funeral home, and i had to look at him before they could sign off. they wanted it to be as close to how he looked in life. so someone from the family. that's how we did the. they had to go down and the memories of that i used when i sing death letter because it is a very strong memory that i have of touching his face and crying and
and. >> and connecting to our ancestors, which is revence, also forms of music. >> absolutely. every day we mentioned earlier your tribute to miles davis, blue light to dawn, a few of the albums. is there a sequence to the albums and the songs you choose? tell me. >> when you're in the middle of making anal -- an album, you're just - i'm speaking for myself because there is a lot of leeway that i allow in the process for the musicians and for myself, for the music to create itself. so you're not thinking so much about a sequence, you're
thinking about moves, shifting moods. one day you might be one song. so when you get a distance from the project, then you're able to weave together a little story sometimes and that is how you sequence it based on the story that you're able to get, you're able to glean from the work you've collaborated with a number of artists. prince. >> yes who else? john legend. >> yes name some others. >> i wrote a song with wayne shorter. he didn't actually perform on the album. i wanted him to, on travelling miles, but i wrote lyrics to one of his songs which i'm really proud of. esp. i call the song never broken.
i've collaborated with dave holland. he was a basist with miles davis. marcelles the fields >> blood on the fields which won a pulitzer. >> that was a special project and special moment for me in my career blood on the fields was about? >> slavery. it tells a story of an african prince who is enslaved and a commoner. i am the commoner. we're thrown together. we start talking on the boat and it ends with - i don't remember how it ends. nothing ends
well in slavery so true. i was astounded at the number of musicians who were born in or grew up in mississippi, these people, a lot, so many of them. what >> it's the water, i guess what is it about there, do you think, that musicality. >> it is a strange place. we're at the bottom in many ways, metaphorically, physically. i think you have to develop a sort kind of curousity,
>> singer / songwriter natalie merchant. >> i became fully human when i became a mother. >> devoted community activist. >> people become victimized by their circumstances. >> revelations about her new solo album. >> i was just trying to make music that transferred what was in my heart to other people. >> i lived that character. >> we will be able to see change.
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