Moving to a new label Cassandra Wilson begins this latest phase of her recording career with a Billie Holiday-themed album.

7 April 2015 marks the centenary of the birth of Billie Holiday, and Wilson’s homage to Lady Day will be issued by Legacy in April to coincide.

Produced by Nick Launay and recorded in Los Angeles’ Seedy Underbelly studios with personnel including members of the Bad Seeds such as drummer Thomas Wydler and bassist Martyn P. Casey and featuring strings arranged by Van Dyke Parks, guitarists T Bone Burnett and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner also feature as well as pianist Jon Cowherd from The Brian Blade Fellowship Band and guitarist Kevin Breit who was on New Moon Daughter.

Definitely the Mississippian’s best album since the excellent but very different Loverly which deservedly won the best jazz vocal Grammy for Wilson back in 2009 and much much better than the eclectic Silver Pony and indifferent Another Country. But why so? Well the thrust of the album seems more coherent than some other attempts at Billie Holiday-themed albums, mostly recently for instance Canadian singer Molly Johnson on Because of Billie took a more orthodox approach but was too stagey. Wilson has never to my knowledge remotely sounded like Billie Holiday unlike a lot of female jazz singers who typically are compared: even Amy Winehouse was bracketed with her other supposed Holiday-ers also numbering Madeleine Peyroux probably a closer match.

The songs, 12 in all are ‘Don’t Explain’; ‘Billie’s Blues’ from Columbia album Billie Holiday Vol 1; ‘Crazy He Calls Me’; ‘You Go To My Head’ from 1952 album Billie Holiday Sings; ‘All of Me’ from the same album; ‘The Way You Look Tonight’; ‘Good Morning Heartache’ from Lady Sings the Blues; ‘What A Little Moonlight Can Do’ a song Holiday sang with Teddy Wilson back in the 1930s; ‘These Foolish Things’ again from Billie Holiday Sings; the important protest song ‘Strange Fruit’ elaborately arranged in an absorbing way again sung by Holiday on Lady Sings the Blues; the very slow ‘I’ll be Seeing You’; and less grippingly ‘Last Song.’ Some get the lush treatment with strings prominent (eg ‘Crazy He Calls Me’ and in the sweeping beginning of ‘You Go To my Head’ and on the very old-fashioned luxurious treatment of ‘The Way You Look Tonight’); but some are built more on an Americana stripped-down sound wrapped around woozy guitars, Wilson’s voice lightly obscured in a cloudy sonic wash which really works and aids, in the handsome sound production, her low tones conjuring so much emotion.

This collection of magic spells, to draw on the title allusion from the Book of the Dead, should connect with a lot of people no matter how jazz attuned they are or not. There are no clichés however but there is enough here to draw in rock fans too given the guitar presence and enough celebratory mood for nostalgia fiends drawn by the Holiday legend for whatever reason.

A reminder of Wilson’s great great voice that first knocked everyone’s socks off back in the very different MBASE era and even more widely on the magnificent Blue Light 'Til Dawn. Highlights? Well the way ‘All of Me’ begins is just beautiful emerging out of the bossa feel of ‘Insensatez’ for a short while before switching time and feel seamlessly to the melody of All of Me.’ It’s all there, just caught in the air. Stephen Graham