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Release: March 12, 1999

(NOTE TO EDITORS: The publicity contact for the Cassandra Wilson "Traveling Miles" tour is Eliza Rabinoff at Shore Fire Media, (718) 522-7171. The fax number is (718) 522-7242. Her record-company contact is Marco Colton at Blue Note records, 212-253-3062, fax 212-253-3266.)

Cassandra Wilson pays homage to Miles Davis in March 31 Hancher concert

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Grammy Award-winning songstress Cassandra Wilson will celebrate one of the most influential jazz artists of the second half of the 20th century in "Traveling Miles: Music from Miles Davis" at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 31 in Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus.

The concert, featuring the accompaniment of an all-star jazz ensemble, will feature compositions written by Davis or closely associated with him, with lyrics for many of the tunes written by Wilson especially for this tribute. Wilson and her ensemble are touring under the auspices of Wynton Marsalis' Jazz at Lincoln Center. "Traveling Miles" will be Wilson's next release on Blue Note records.

The program will be selected from a repertoire of Davis classics including "Seven Steps to Heaven," "All Blues," "So What," "Run the Voodoo Down" and "Round Midnight." In addition, Wilson has written new songs as an homage to Davis.

Chicago Tribune critic Howard Reich wrote, "anyone expecting yet another routine salute to a fallen jazz master would have been startled by this performance, for Wilson . . . dispensed with traditional assumptions about Davis' music. Wilson's haunting vocal colors, smoldering lyricism and ethereal singing made this the most creative and moving tribute to Davis to come along in many years."

Wilson, who won a 1995 Grammy Award for her "New Moon Daughter" recording, captivated a Hancher audience with her dramatic and vocal artistry in Wynton Marsalis' "Blood on the Fields" during the 1996-97 season. She has emerged in recent years as one of the world's leading jazz singers, who infuses her supple, sultry contralto with flavors of flok, blues and pop.

Down Beat editor John Ephland wrote "Not since Billie Holiday has a jazz singer criss-crossed the boundaries between jazz and pop with such reverence and authenticity."

Trumpeter Miles Davis was one of the most influential and controversial artists of recent decades. For more than 50 years, he was a central figure in several of the most prominent movements in jazz. He recorded with Charlie Parker, set the standards for "cool jazz" and hard bop in the '50s, led the jazz excursion into modal playing and won new fans -- while alienating old ones -- by inspiring the fusion revolution.

Critic Stanley Crouch wrote, "Always interested in ways to improvise that would get past cliches, Miles Davis was a bandleader expected to develop styles to high points, then either to abandon them or to alter the approach so radically that the result would almost be the same."

Along the way, Davis discovered or nurtured many of the most significant players in jazz, including John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Tony Williams, Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin and Keith Jarrett.

Never a technical virtuoso of the caliber of the players surrounding him, he became a leader in style and attitude, while developing his unique expressive capabilities and a personal sound that was instantly recognizable.

"His greatest strength was his sensibility," Crouch wrote. "It is that sensibility which has always attracted the singer Cassandra Wilson to the persona of Miles Davis and to his music. Wilson is the most sensual of our contemporary singers. She seems to sing through her skin, not her throat, and her voice has the onomatopoeic sound of the woman alone, the woman in love, the woman wrapped up with her man in that perfect congress of grace, style and power.

"Then there is also the sullen feeling of timeless resentment, the angers that prick and flutter just below the surface of the flesh.. All of Wilson's individual qualities make her perfect for a program dedicated to the most famous trumpet player since Louis Armstrong."

In describing her motivations, Wilson says, "Miles is the mysterious one. We have all of these great trumpet players, era to era, then we have Miles. To me, he's the most different of them all. There's something in his sound this is so strong, so masculine. But at the same time there's another thing so intimate that is seems almost feminine.

"His music speaks to all of us on a very real level. That's what I want to do and what I have always wanted to do ever since I heard Miles Davis playing 'Sketches of Spain' on my father's record player back when I was a little girl. His artistry is something we all should value."

The Iowa City Press-Citizen is the corporate sponsor of the Cassandra Wilson concert through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets are $30, $27 and $24. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, with Zone 3 tickets available to UI students for $10. Tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web. Learn more about Cassandra Wilson at