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Showing posts with label Nina Simone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nina Simone. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Nina Simone and Her Friends' deluxe reissue coming from BMG; four tracks from 'Little Girl Blue' recording session in 1957










Set includes four tracks from the Little Girl Blue recording session in 1957

along with songs by jazz-vocal greats Chris Connor and Carmen McRae


Available from Bethlehem Records/BMG

December 3 on vinyl, CD and digital platforms 

Stream the “African Mailman” re-mastered track here (hyperlink tk)  



LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Originally released by Bethlehem Records in 1959, Nina Simone and Her Friends was a compilation album comprising the few remaining unreleased tracks from the 1957 Little Girl Blue recording session plus songs recorded by two other former Bethlehem artists, the powerhouse jazz vocalist Carmen McRae and the elegant song stylist Chris Connor. 

An RSD-Essentials exclusive “emerald-green” limited-edition 180-gram LP will be available, along with CD and digital/streaming versions (high-definition and standard) on December 3, 2021. The reissue features a fresh stereo master done by four-time Grammy winner Michael Graves as well as a vinyl remastering by the renowned Kevin Gray. Grammy winner Cheryl Pawelski produced the set, which includes a new essay by Daphne A. Brooks, author of Liner Notes for the Revolution.


As Brooks explains in her essay, “Bethlehem clustered their work — tracks that had previously appeared on the label’s Girlfriends compilation — together with the younger, upstart Simone’s and essentially offered up a collection of songs that span a range of genres — folk, jazz, pop song staples, and torch song laments, plus a couple of provocative original compositions by McRae and Simone. Each track is a reminder of the clear-eyed independence, verve, and confidence of three artists whose music, taken together, brims with the majesty and the assured talents of the late 1950s women artists who led with conviction and invention as musicians and song interpreters.” 

Available today, October 20, as a sneak-peak, “African Mailman” is an instrumental track recorded during the Little Girl Blue sessions, showcasing Nina Simone’s incredible piano playing. At the time, Simone was in her mid-20s and still aspiring to be a classical concert pianist. As Brooks describes it: “A magisterial original composition of Simone’s which, as she recounts it, ‘was made up on the spot in the studio and recorded in one take,’ finds her moving across an Afrodiasporic terrain of percussion, leading at the keyboard, rolling and tumbling, building waves of contrasting chromatic depth and spinning, ethereal flight.”




1.     Nina Simone – “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” 

2.     Chris Conner – “Someone to Watch Over Me” 

3.     Carmen McRae – “Old Devil Moon” 

4.     Nina Simone – “I Loves You, Porgy” 

5.     Chris Connor – “I Concentrate on You” 

6.     Carmen McRae – “You Made Me Care” 

7.     Nina Simone – “For All We Know” 

8.     Chris Connor – “From This Moment On” 

9.     Carmen McRae – “Too Much in Love to Care” 

10.   Nina Simone – “African Mailman” 

11.   Chris Connor – “All This and Heaven Too” 

12.   Carmen McRae – “Last Time for Love” 


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Watch the "African Mailman" single:

Linkfire for the “African Mailman” single:


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

BMG artist: Nina Simone - Little Girl Blue - New Release Review

 I just had the opportunity to review the newest release (August 13, 2021), Little Girl Blue, by Nina Simone and it's terrific! This is a classic album which was originally recorded in 1957 by the then 24 year old Simone on her first recording outing. This release has been remastered and engineered by Michael Graves and Cheryl Pawelski and the vinyl (180g blue or black) cut by engineer, Kevin Gray. Opening with Ellington's, Mood Indigo and opens with Simone showing that she really knows her way around the keyboard having attended Julliard. In this hot jazz improvization, she really swings in with potent piano lines and great offset vocals, joined by Jimmy Bond on bass and Albert "Tootie" Heath on drums. Excellent opener. Don't Smoke In Bed, a Willard Robinson composition, finds Simone singing the blues with only a bed of piano as a light accompaniment for the most part and highly tense at the end of her phrases. Masterful. Another terrific blues, He Needs Me, shows Simone really knows how to work the track vocally and just the right amount of accompaniment to make the vocals glisten. You don't often hear the purity of feeling as expressed in this track. Moving into full throttle swing, Simone pours on the heat on Donaldson's Love Me Of Leave Me. Her vocal phrasing is really poised and her piano work blends classical lines with full on jazz. Just enough bass by Bond and a tight rhythm by Heath makes this a top track on the release. Rogers and Hammerstein classic, You'll Never Walk Alone gets a formally classical type arrangement tht will leave you sitting back thinking, this is a blues/jazz singer? She really is exceptional. Gershwin's I Love You, Porgy is a precious gem among the diamonds here. This track has been covered by most of the greats, most notably Miles Davis but this is no second class cover. Simone's expressive vocals and her dynamic piano work is stunning. Wrapping the release is Simone original, Central Park Blues with Bond walking the bass and Heath on brushes. A straight up blues number positions Simone on piano at lead but giving Bond a fine opportunity to front on solo as well. Her lead lines are stark and dynamic yet quiet and sensitive. This is an excellent closer for one of the classics of our times. 

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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Nina Simone - The Montreux Years - New Release Review


I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, The Montreux Years, from Nina Simone and it's really a great representation of her live performances. This compilation covers all of her 5 Montreux performances. Disc one a composite of cuts from various years and disc two her 1968 performance in full. Opening with a demonstration of her classical training on piano on Someone to Watch Over Me, Simone really gets the keys rolling showig real keyboard prowess and power. On shuffle track, I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, Simone lays down a simple piano line and sings with her casual but succinct style with heavy piano accent. Very cool. See-Line Woman with backing vocal has it's southern blues roots and chant like nature. Very much like primitive field hollars, it relates to prostitutes lining up to perform "favors" as the sailors come to shore. Don't Smoke In Bed is a fairly classic Simone track with it's dramatic classical/jazz piano presentation and Simone's soulful voice. African Mailman is a vibrant instrumental starting with piano and light snare, slowly building with tom toms, cowbell, and cymbal. Very cool. Liberian Calypso has a strong island rhythm with piano and percussion under Simone's strong vocal and crowd audience vocal participation. I really like this release but one of my favorites is Ne Me Quitte Pas, a Belgian ballad sung in french. With only her piano and vocal, this is a terrific track. Rocking the close on cd one is My Baby Just Cares For Me with Simone really rolling the keys. Her ability to get in the slot and drag you there with her is remarkable and this track is a cool closer for the disc. 

Disc 2 opens with Simone classic, Go To Hell with it's bulldozer like approach and terrific followthrough. Simone is on top of her game here and the vocals are strong and clear. On her own super hit, Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, really popularized by the Animals, Simone maintains her easy, laid back approach. With Buck Clarke on drums, Gene Taylor on double bass, Sam Waymon on organ and perecussion and hot guitar by Henry Taylor, this is strong. Funky, Backlash Blues has a real groove, created by Clarke and Taylor, reinforced by Simone on vocal and piano. Great changeup in the middle of the set. The set is wrapped with two encores, Gin House Blues and I Wish I How It Would Feel To be Free. Gin House Blues gets a firey, R&B,  Ray Charles like make over that really gets the stage romping like a revival tent with extended solos by Clarke, Waymon, and Taylor. Very nice. Winding it down on I Wish, Simone has the audience in her hands. This is the perfect closer having laid it all out there and giving the crowd a chance to catch their breath with a gospel like sway.

This is an excellent release and one long coming.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

BMG/Bethlehem Records: Nina Simone - Mood Indigo: The Complete Bethlehem Singles - New Release Review

I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Mood Indigo: The Complete Bethlehem Singles, by Nina Simone and it's terrific. Opening with Porgy (I Loves You, Porgy), Simone on lead vocal and piano sets a standard that to today is still regarded as gold for jazz style. Backed by Jimmy Bond on bass and Albert "Tootie" Heath on drums, this is an excellent opener. Love Me Or Leave Me leaves no question of where contemporary vocalists such as Diana Krall's inspiration originates. This is the blueprint for bop jazz vocals. Very nice. Somber ballad, He Needs Me, not only shows the purity of Simone's vocals but the crystal clear classical style piano work that is her trademark. Showing her classical piano chops on the intro to Latin based instrumental, African Mailman, Simone really gets the rhythm moving on this one. Letting out the lead on title track, Mood Indigo, Simone really swings. Her vocal phrasing, over Bond's bass line is so excellent it gives you goose bumps... and dig her piano riffs! Good Bait is a great track with a solid walking bass line, steady drums and nicely executed piano melody. Strong. Wrapping this release is Simone's interpretation of My Baby Just Cares For Me with solid bass, brushes and piano on the up beat as rhythm. Her playful piano lead and stylized vocals on this track make for a great closer for a pretty incredible set.

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Friday, January 19, 2018

Nina Simone's first recordings, 'Mood Indigo: The Complete Bethlehem Sessions,' coming Feb. 9 from BMG.

2018 marks the 60th anniversary of these recordings made
 for Simone’s landmark debut album Little Girl Blue.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Nina Simone was only 25 years old in 1958 when she entered Beltone Studios in midtown Manhattan for a one-day recording session for her debut album, Little Girl Blue, on Bethlehem Records. The 14 songs she recorded that day reveal just how well developed Simone’s sound — her powerhouse vocals, her classically-trained piano-playing, her inventive, genre-blind arrangements, and her dynamic personality — already was. Bethlehem, a small and financially faltering jazz label, picked 11 tracks for Little Girl Blue. This unheralded debut yielded Simone’s biggest hit, a cover of the Gershwins’ “Porgy (I Loves You, Porgy),” as well as her last one, “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” which charted in 1987 after being used in a TV commercial. 
By the time “Porgy (I Loves You, Porgy)” was moving up the charts, Simone had moved on to larger and financially stronger Colpix Records. Wanting to capitalize on Simone’s hit, Bethlehem made the most of their Simone material. On Nina Simone and Her Friends, they placed “Porgy’ and the three songs left off of Little Girl Lost (“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” “African Mailman,” and “For All We Know”) with songs by her label-mates Chris Connor and Carmen McRae. Between 1959-62, Bethlehem also put out six singles utilizing all of their Simone tracks. To commemorate the 60th anniversary of these recordings, BMG/Bethlehem now has compiled these singles together as Mood Indigo: The Complete Bethlehem Sessions, due out on February 9, 2019
The 14-track CD version of Mood Indigo follows the chronology of Bethlehem’s single releases, starting with the first A-side “Porgy (I Loves You, Porgy)” and ending with the last A-side, “My Baby Just Cares Me.” The collection contains an alternative take of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” as well as seven single-only tracks that previously have only been available on the original 45s. The LP version, pressed in standard black and limited edition blue vinyl, holds 12 tracks plus a bonus 7" replica of Simone’s first single, “Porgy (I Loves You, Porgy)” backed with “Love Me or Leave Me.” 
The Bethlehem Sessions displays a young Nina Simone confidently putting her distinctive stamp on the set of jazz numbers and Broadway tunes. She prefaces Rodgers & Hart’s “Little Girl Blue” with a bit of “Good King Wenceslas" and drops a Bach-like interlude into the hot jazz “Love Me or Leave Me.” Although this was her first album, Simone had written in her contract that she could chose the album’s musical direction, and she chose songs she was familiar with from playing in clubs. The session featured Simone performing either solo on piano or backed by bassist Jimmy Bond and drummer Al “Tootie” Heath, two then-young jazz players who went on to lengthy careers. 
Mood Indigo’s liner notes include a new interview with Heath, who recalls the one-day session with Simone. “She sat at the piano and sang, and that was that … Nina was already Nina by then. She had her sound together — It was quite different. Her piano playing was something I had never heard before because it wasn’t typical jazz or it wasn’t typical classical. It was Nina Simone, it was her stuff.” Heath’s insightful interview is just part of the enlightening liner notes. Penned by Ashley Kahn, the author of the books Kind of Blue and A Love Supreme, the liner notes provide an excellent history on the making of Little Girl Lost, which was filled with its complications, much like the Simone itself.
This year not only marks the 60th anniversary of the Bethlehem Sessions, but it will also see Nina Simone being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, on April 14. Simone, who would have turned 85 on February 21st, has never disappeared from the public’s eye since she passed away in 2003. Recent years saw the release of two documentaries about her: The Amazing Nina Simone and What Happened, Miss Simone, the latter a 2016 Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature. What Happened, Miss Simone also is the name of Alan Light’s well-received 2016 biography. Simone’s music continues to appear on TV and movie soundtracks (her tune "Take Care of Business” was used in the closing credits of 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. film). Musicians, moreover, have long cited Simone as an influence. The song “Plain Gold Ring,” which is on Mood Indigo, has been covered by White Magic, Nick Cave, and Kimbra, while Simone’s version of “Little Girl Lost” inspired renditions by the likes of Janis Joplin, Diana Ross, and Diana Krall. 
Simone’s career was as eclectic as her music. After leaving Bethlehem, she recorded for the Colpix, Phillips, and RCA labels, releasing more than 25 albums from 1959-1974. She continued to cover standards and pop songs, from Screaming Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” to the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody”; from the traditional “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” to the original version of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” Starting in the mid-’60s, her music turned more political, highlighted by such memorable tunes as “Sinnerman,” “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black,” “Strange Fruit,” "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free," and “Mississippi Goddam.” The last 30 years of her life, Simone led a more peripatetic expatriate existence. She continued to perform live (especially overseas) but recorded only sporadically. 
Just as Simone travelled the world, she also traveled down many musical roads. Mood Indigo, however, captures Simone at an incandescent moment — when her sound held both a complexity of style and a purity of youth.
1 Little Girl Blue 
2 He Needs Me 
3 Don’t Smoke In Bed 
4 African Mailman 
5 Mood Indigo 
6 Central Park Blues

7 For All We Know 
8 Good Bait 
9 You’ll Never Walk Alone 
10 Plain Gold Ring 
11 He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands (Alternate Take) 
12 My Baby Just Cares For Me

Also includes 7" single featuring “Porgy (I Loves You, Porgy)”b/w “Love Me Or Leave Me” 

Pre-Order Links:
Barnes & Noble Exclusive Blue Vinyl 

CD & Standard Black Vinyl

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood - Nina Simone

Eunice Kathleen Waymon (February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003), better known by her stage name Nina Simone (/ˈniːnə sɨˈmoʊn/), was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist widely associated with jazz music. Simone aspired to become a classical pianist while working in a broad range of styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop.

Born the sixth child of a preacher's family in North Carolina, Simone aspired to be a concert pianist as a child. Her musical path changed direction after she was denied a scholarship to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, despite a well-received audition. Simone was later told by someone working at Curtis that she was rejected because she was black. She then began playing in a small club in Philadelphia to fund her continuing musical education to become a classical pianist and was required to sing as well. She was approached for a recording by Bethlehem Records, and her rendition of "I Loves You Porgy" became a smash hit in the United States in 1958. Over the length of her career, Simone recorded more than 40 albums, mostly between 1958 — when she made her debut with Little Girl Blue — and 1974.

Her musical style arose from a fusion of gospel and pop songs with classical music, in particular with influences from her first inspiration, Johann Sebastian Bach, and accompanied with her expressive jazz-like singing in her characteristic low tenor. She injected as much of her classical background into her music as possible to give it more depth and quality, as she felt that pop music was inferior to classical. Her intuitive grasp on the audience-performer relationship was gained from a unique background of playing piano accompaniment for church revivals and sermons regularly from the early age of six years.

After 20 years of performing, she became involved in the civil rights movement and the direction of her life shifted once again. Simone's music was highly influential in the fight for equal rights in the US
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