2004 European CD reissue.
Recorded in the summer of 1991 in New York City, After the Beginning Again features Cassandra Wilson working with M-Base refugees like pianist James Weidman, and the sort of muted jazz-funk on display here is a far cry from the more bluesy and sparse, atmospheric acoustic touches of her later Blue Note recordings. With her deep, Betty Carter-like voice and a breathy sense of phrasing, Wilson needs space to put songs across, and space is at a premium here. When she does get that space, however, things work, particularly on the tracks that have a strong emotional center that Wilson can push and pull into intimate places, like "Baubles, Bangles and Beads," which comes off wounded and soulful, thanks in no small part to Weidman's edgy, angular piano work.
Wilson also manages pretty well on the Thelonious Monk chestnut "'Round Midnight," with her vocal catching the exact right mix of weariness and after-hours exhaustion on a song that has never been an easy one for singers. Another highlight here is the first recorded version of a Wilson original, "Redbone," which rides it's atmospheric percussion effectively, although it is slower and perhaps a bit less striking than her later rendition on Blue Light Til Dawn. When compared to her more mature mid-'90s Blue Note releases, After the Beginning Again sounds both busier and less focused, but committed fans of Cassandra Wilson will no doubt find it interesting and revealing. - Steve Leggett.
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