Jazz critics used to have a problem with Cassandra Wilson and her penchant for schmearing jazz, blues and pop influences into a delicious but hard-to-define mess. Which really was their problem, since Wilson's hypnotic, bourbon-and-honey voice and unerring feel for a groove insist and reward appreciation purely on their own terms.
Fortunately, the "But is it jazz?" contingent has since found other targets, while Wilson has lost none of her power and charm, whether performing bracingly original tunes or wringing new drama from standards. Hear for yourself this week as she performs at 8 and 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at Yoshi's San Francisco. Tickets are $36 and $45.
Also worth noting on the Bay Area jazz scene this week:
- Guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, a phenomenal young talent who plays everything from standards to hip-hop with verve and world-class chops, performs 8 p.m. Wednesday at Yoshi's San Francisco. $22
- Bass phenomenon and Bela Fleck cohort Victor Wooten thumps up a storm, 8 and 10 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at Yoshi's Oakland. $30
- Author Jeffrey Miller discusses the life of music of iconic trumpeter Lee Morgan, subject of his new biography "Delightfulee," 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Green Arcade bookstore in San Francisco. Free
- Golden-toned saxophonist Scott Hamilton plays straightahead jazz with swing to spare, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the SFJAZZ Center. $19-$55 Hamilton also performs a weekend show with a trio helmed by Bay Area piano prince Larry Vukovich, 8 p.m. Saturday at Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland. $20
- New Orleans trumpeter and provocateur Nicholas Payton checks in with his new groove-enhanced outfit XXX, featuring Lenny White on drums, for shows at 8 and 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Yoshi's Oakland. $22
- The Afro-Cuban All Stars, comprised of some of the island's most accomplished players, makes Latin jazz sizzle, with shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday at SFJAZZ Center. $25$70
- High-flying vocalist Lisa Engelken performs with her quartet, 8 p.m. Saturday at Oakland's Sound Room. $20
- Top Bay Area players pay tribute to drummer and Bay Area jazz institution Eddie Marshall in an 8 p.m. Saturday show at Berkeley's Jazzschool. $12-$15
- The Jazz Heritage Center celebrates its fifth anniversary with an 80th birthday celebration for iconic saxophonist John Handy, 3 p.m. Sunday. $50-$80
- Chris Potter, who's pretty much become the go-to saxophonist for anyone who matters over the past decade, assembles a high-octane quartet -- featuring Larry Grenadier on bass and Eric Harland on drums -- for shows at 7 and 9 p.m. Sunday at Yoshi's Oakland. $15-$25
Send tips, comments and good vibes to the author.