With her Nina Simone-like low register and supple phrasing, charismatic Grammy-winning vocalist Cassandra Wilson could endlessly recycle her successful acoustic folk-blues repertoire. But with 2010's Silver Pony, and this similarly eclectic set made with the Italian guitarist and producer Fabrizio Sotti, she has revealed an eagerness to spread her wings. Sotti, a fine jazz guitarist with an occasional Django Reinhardt ring, has almost as much of the spotlight – and the light touch and subtle shading of this session, recorded in Florence, are also down to a French/Italian/Nigerian lineup featuring two percussionists (Mino Cinelu and Lekan Babalola), accordion and bass. Wilson sounds as unflinchingly rugged as of old on Red Guitar, and likewise on the traditional-sounding No More Blues. Her love affair with Florence somewhat unwisely led to the inclusion of O Sole Mio (sung in eerily inflected Italian), and the samba whispers of Almost Twelve don't entirely suit her, either. But the atmosphere of discovery, uncertainty and anticipation on the musing, low-pitched original Passion (a standout track) balances Wilson's unique vocal strengths, Sotti's elegant improvising and the band's soft glow. Her gliding variations over a chamber choir and accordion on the swaying Olomuroro aren't far behind.
John Fordham is the Guardian's main jazz critic. He has written several books on the subject, reported on it for publications including Time Out, Sounds, Wire and Word, and contributed to documentaries for radio and TV. He is a former editor of Time Out, City Limits and Jazz UK, and regularly contributes to BBC Radio 3's Jazz on 3