Coming Forth by Day (Legacy)

Cassandra Wilson

Released April 6, 2015

Arts Fuse 2015 Jazz Critics Poll Top 5 Vocal Album




Cassandra Wilson will release an otherworldly homage to Billie Holiday, ‘Coming Forth By Day’ (Legacy Recordings) April 7, 2015, on what would have been Holiday’s 100th birthday. Wilson, who has drawn inspiration from Billie Holiday for her entire life, chose the title as a way to honor the iconic singer: ‘Coming Forth By Day’ is an English translation of the title of the ancient Egyptian “Book of the Dead,” a collection of magic spells intended to assist the journey of those that have passed on through the afterlife.

Wilson has taken a characteristically fearless approach to “Lady Day’s” iconic catalog. Together with producer Nick Launay (known for his work with Nick Cave), Wilson has chosen songs that span Holiday’s tragic, abbreviated career – some lesser know and many famous. She also penned the dream-like new “Last Song (For Lester),” imagined as a heartbreaking final message from Billie to her lover Lester Young. (Upon getting the news that Young had passed away, Billie flew straight from overseas to his funeral but was denied the opportunity to sing by Young’s family and was distraught.)

“‘Coming Forth by Day’ is an homage dedicated to the beauty, power, and genius of Billie Holiday. A collection of musical spells, prescriptions for navigating the dubious myths surrounding her life and times, this record is a vehicle for the re-emergence of Billie’s songbook in the 21st century,” says Cassandra.

The album boasts a surprising cast of characters. It was produced by Nick Launay, who has worked closely with Nick Cave for the past decade in addition to Arcade Fire and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It includes guitarists T Bone Burnett and Nick Zinner of the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, string arranger Van Dyke Parks, rhythm section The Bad Seeds (drummer Thomas Wydler and bassist Martyn P. Casey) and longtime Cassandra collaborators Jon Cowherd on piano and Kevin Breit on guitar.

“We set out to dig deep into the lyrics, and the meaning behind why they were written. The result is a whole new experience for the listener, both those familiar with Cassandra and newcomers. It’s moving and engaging beyond words…this one is for the ears and soul,” says producer Nick Launay.

Track Listing:

1. Don’t Explain 04:34

2. Billie’s Blues 05:07

3. Crazy He Calls Me 06:18

4. You Go to My Head 04:08

5. All of Me 04:05

6. The Way You Look Tonight 03:50

7. Good Morning Heartache 04:56

8. What a Little Moonlight Can Do 04:09

9. These Foolish Things 04:13

10. Strange Fruit 04:54

11. I’ll Be Seeing You 06:08

12. Last Song (For Lester) 05:50


Cassandra Wilson: vocals, guitar

Nick Launay: guitar, atmospheric effects, loops and pedals

Martyn P. Casey: bass

Thomas Wydler: drums

Kevin Breit: guitar, mandolin, banjo, loops, pedal effects

Jon Cowherd: piano, Fender Rhodes

Robby Marshall: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, melodica

Walter Smith, saxophone

Paul Cantelon, accordion

Church, Toledo: backing vocals

Ming Vauze: guitar, atmospheric effects, loops and pedals (1, 10, 12)

T Bone Burnett: baritone guitar (2, 4, 7)

Nick Zinner: additional guitar, loops (4, 8 to 10, 12)

The Section Quartet

Daphne Chen (violin), Lauren Chipman (viola), Richard Dodd (cello), Eric Gorfain (violin): strings (3 to 5, 8, 10), 

Van Dyke Parks Orchestra (4, 6)

Van Dyke Parks: string arrangements

Recorded and mixed at Seedy Underbelly Studios, Valley Vaillage, CA in summer of 2014

Produced, Mixed and Recorded by Nick Launay

Assistant Producer and Recording Engineer: Atom Greenspan

Co-producer: Ed Gerrard

Mastered by Bernie Grundman

Photography by Mark Seliger

Project Coordinator: Sherry Beth Mounce

Art Direction: Frank Harkins


Vocalist Cassandra Wilson avoided a predictable approach for Coming Forth By Day. This disc, which includes 11 songs recorded by Billie Holiday, functions as an admirable tribute, but it doesn’t sound like Lady Day. Wilson employs her own husky, occasionally hushed singing style, not attempting to re-create Holiday’s famous vocal inflections—and certainly not copying her arrangements. Instead, Wilson assembled a stellar, “outside the box” ensemble to interpret this material for a new generation of listeners. Her eclectic cast of collaborators includes producer Nick Launay (celebrated for his work with alt-rockers Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds), guitarist T Bone Burnett (who helped Diana Krall incorporate Americana sounds into her 2012 album, Glad Rag Doll) and drummer Thomas Wydler and bassist Martyn P. Casey of The Bad Seeds. Van Dyke Parks—famous for his work with rock acts such as Brian Wilson and U2—wrote intricate string arrangements that bolster Wilson’s voice without diluting its power. Holiday’s hit version of “The Way You Look Tonight” in 1936 was a chipper swing number. In contrast, Wilson slows down the tempo for her version, Parks provides a lush cushion of strings, and Robby Marshall’s clarinet adds a somber tone. Wilson and her team also offer an unusual arrangement of the anti-lynching song “Strange Fruit,” one of the most harrowing compositions of the 20th century. Wilson’s interpretation has layered digital effects, ominous bass notes and cascading, chaotic strings, all of which reinforce the sense of violence and injustice conveyed by the unforgettable lyrics. The album concludes with Wilson’s original composition “Last Song,” in which she imagines a final message from Holiday to her recently deceased lover, Lester Young. Wilson delivers the lyrics with obvious, tremendous respect. But thankfully, on this remarkable album, Wilson’s reverence for an icon didn’t prevent her from using Holiday’s music as a point of departure, rather than a static template.

Bobby Reed (DownBeat)