Sunday, August 22, 2010

Nina Simone

Nina SimoneI have two collections by Nina Simone. The other is part of the Jazz Masters series, and it’s more wide-ranging then this, but neither that one nor this one has any of her top 100 entries apart from I Loves You Porgy. She had 6 altogether (not counting the reissue of My Baby Just Cares For Me, described below), but none, apart from Porgy, reached higher than 78.

The album is called Greatest Hits and it’s disappeared from the earth’s surface – I certainly can’t find it online anywhere, not on eBay, not on, nowhere – and it’s too bad, because I didn’t write down all the song titles, and so I have no idea what two of the instrumentals are called. That’s what happens when you don’t write things down.

My colleague, a guy I work with, let’s call him The New Dave, he’s a guy in his mid 20s, a bit of a musician, I mention jazz to him, he says he’s not much into instrumental jazz, likes jazz singers, and mentions Nina Simone. There you go. Last time I was at a jazz club, place called Upstairs, located in the basement (of course) of a place on Crescent, in between live sets it was Nina Simone they were playing. The person I mentioned it to said “but that’s a guy.” And I said not last time I checked. True her voice is low, but it’s not masculine. What it is is expressive.

Nina Simone:

Mood Indigo – A song about despondency, performed in a rather jubilant manner. A jazz standard cowritten by Duke Ellington.
Don’t Smoke In Bed – Don’t look for me, she sings, over her somber piano. She leaves her wedding ring behind, leaves a note, and takes off. Sad stuff.
He Needs Me – A smoky rendition of the song from Oliver.
Little Girl Blue – Done famously by Judy Garland, and done infamously by Janis Joplin. Ms. Simone starts and finishes this with Good King Wenceslaus, played on the piano. I don’t know why. Great recording.
Love Me Or Leave Me – She does a fast, jazzy take on this.
My Baby Just Cares For Me – Wikipedia says that this is her signature song. It was written in the late 20s by Walter Donaldson and Gus Khan. Nina released it in 1958; then it was used in a TV commercial in 1987 (Chanel No. 5) after which it became a hit. A great recording, but you wouldn’t think it was top 10 material, especially in the 80, the decade of Phil Collins.
• ?
Plain Gold Ring
You’ll Never Walk Alone – Done as a piano instrumental. It couldn’t be more dramatic if it was by Liszt.
I Loves You Porgy – From the Gershwin “opera” Porgy And Bess. Written by Gershwin to be sung by an exclusively African-American cast; in those they were called “Negroes,” it seems to have been taken seriously as an opera, and notionally it’s an opera, but musically it’s more of a jazz operetta - heavy on tunes, light on arias. It’s Summertime that’s been extracted ad oblivion, so it’s refreshing to hear Nina doing this. Not surprisingly, she doesn’t use the patois. She sings “I love you Porgy,” straight. This was the only top 20 hit she ever had (the only top 40 hit in fact) not counting that other one I was talking about before, which was an anomaly. From the fall of 1959.

1 comment:

Mauro Boscarol said...

This is the very first LP Nina recorded, on 1957.



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