Music has the onerous and often overwhelming power to move us. Call it a primordial instinctive response or learned appreciation, we all have the potential to truly appreciate music for what it is: a great gift. I am moved to tears more often than I’d like to admit by the awesome beauty of music and how fortunate we, in the developed world, are to be able to enjoy it so effortlessly. To that end, I will attempt to describe this momentous work, Little Girl Blue, and hope that you, too, shall be awed by the never ending talents of Ms Nina Simone.
Simone was a classically trained concert pianist (Julliard) but because of the overt discrimination at the time, her career was stymied. She began playing jazz in Atlantic City and New York clubs and recorded this album at age twenty five. AnalogPlanet
From start to finish, Nina’s musical prowess is evident. Gus Wildi, the founder of the Bethlehem/ Analogue Production label on which this album is released, gave Nina complete creative control to make Little Girl Blue as she wanted. The arrangement is undeniably fine, from the syncopations in Plain Gold Ring to the improvisation in Good Bait, Nina shows herself to be an authority on Jazz piano. On a side note, her cover of Tadd Dameron’s Good Bait is nothing short of a miracle. The transformation from the original, combined with the astonishing prowess with which Nina grips you from the first note make for a truly superb piece.
She’s backed by Jimmy Bond on bass and Al Heath on drums and that’s all that’s needed as she idiosyncratically covers familiar territory like “Mood Indigo”, “Don’t Smoke In Bed”, “Love Me Or Leave Me” and “Porgy”. AnalogPlanet
Nina’s rendition of Porgy also stunned me. Few know but many should be able to guess, that Gerwshin is my favourite composer. To see an artist of Nina’s calibre take on Porgy and do it so well is mesmerising. Her gripping, almost haunting vocal range and sensitivity to the vision of the overall piece in her piano playing combine to make this version almost etherial.
Overall, this is an album of sensational scope, beginning with Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo, which speaks of depression, going straight into Don’t Smoke In Bed, a ballad about leaving one’s lover. Thence to He Needs Me to Love Me or Leave Me, which take us on Nina’s journey of shunning indecision in love. From My Baby Just Cares For Me to the astonishing Porgy as the final track, we see a theme of more poignant stability. In all, this album feels like a quasi warning to those who mess with Nina and, above all, a tale about one’s potential journey through love. I hope you’ll be moved as much as St Nick and I were.