Meshell Ndegeocello’s 11th album Comet, Come to Me is a gentle and beautifully-crafted effort from the influential Grammy-nominated vocalist. Though the backdrop of many songs on the album are filled with breezy reggae rhythms, Comet, Come to Me also relies on jazz, hip-hop and even some Spanish guitar to keep you on your toes. After you are drawn in by the soft melodies accompanied by cool drum beats and guitar riffs, you start to focus on what Ndegeocello is actually saying in each song. She has a straightforward, blunt way about describing relationships that she is able to convey so plainly yet so accurately. We hear it in songs like “Folie a Deux” when she sings “Call me hateful and cold, I just don’t love you no more” and in “Tom” how she opens with “There’s nothing between us but the feeling of nothing.” The fact that these songs are not loud exclamatory ballads, but quiet unhurried intimate stories give the album a powerful and emotional quality that delve deep into the processes of human decisions.
Ndegecello is an inspiring artist because you can feel the curiosity she has about the world in all aspects of who she is. When she was 17, she changed her last name to Ndegecello which means “free like a bird” in Swahili. Through her music, we learn about her love and respect for all things, even her Twitter bio reads “A world made of love..”
XPN will welcome Ndegecello to World Cafe Live on Friday, June 6th to celebrate the release of Comet, Come to Me. You can find tickets and info for the show here and can listen to “Tom” below.
Meshell Ndegeocello wants to share her love for the music of Nina Simone with anyone inclined to listen. Those in attendance at World Café Live at The Queen in Wilmington on Wednesday night experienced Ndegeocello’s passion for Simone in a wonderfully brisk 90-minute set.
Ndegeocello’s rich soulful voice and booming bass propelled the nearly sold-out crowd through the Simone songbook that Ndegeocello performed on the 2012 release Pour une Ame Souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone. From the highs of “Feeling Good” to the ballad standard of “Black is the Color of My True Loves Hair,” Ndgeocello captured the essence of Simone in one moment and transformed it into something fresh and new the next.
Before a fully seated Queen crowd that was in rapt silence, Ndegeocello and her band of guitarist Chris Bruce, keyboardist Jebin Bruni, and new drummer Abraham Rounds breathed life into Simone and her interpretations. Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” is loved best by Ndegeocello in Simone’s glorious take on it; its folk origins were barely visible in the jazzed up brilliance of Ndegeocello and Simone. Beyond Simone, Ndegeocello transformed The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” to a place beyond the imaginations of the Liverpool lads; gone was its trippiness in exchange for bold percussion and bass and guitar lines that floated one’s mind downstream.
In a show of discovery and the sublime, two moments stood out more than any other. The main set closer of “Four Women” was a knockout; Simone’s stories resonate still today and Ndegeocello brought beauty and devastation to the song with her voice and her bass. The final song of the night, Ndegeocello’s own “Oysters” from her 2011 album Weather, was just her voice and keys. Her storytelling and visuals, when matched with that of Simone and all of the songwriters beloved by Simone and Ndegeocello herself, were the perfect complement and ending to a night of musical reimagination and transcendence.
The ever soulful jazz/ R&B singer/instrumentalist Meshell Ndegeocello will perform a tribute to Nina Simone at World Cafe Live at The Queen in Wilmington tonight. Backed by a full band, Ndegeocello will incorporate her unique jazz and gospel flair into Simone’s large repertoire of classic tunes, breathing new life into the iconic music written by or associated with Simone. Ndegeocello’s 2012 tribute album Pour Une Âme Souveraine (For a Sovereign Soul): A Dedication to Nina Simone features covers of “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” among countless other classics, and the tribute performance this evening is not to be missed. Read The Key’s interview with Ndegeocello here. Find tickets and more info on the performance here.
In retrospect, it seems obvious to link Meshell Ndegeocello with Nina Simone: both are equally adept singers and instrumentalists who straddle the jazz and R&B worlds; both are unafraid to engage with political realities; both are strengthened artistically if undermined commercially by their fierce independence. Perhaps it’s that very independence, that sense that both Simone and Ndegeocello are iconoclastic islands unto themselves, that camouflaged any linkage between the two before the release of Pour Une Âme Souveraine (For a Soverign Soul): A Dedication to Nina Simone, Ndegeocello’s 2012 tribute album.
Ndegeocello will bring her homage to Simone to World Café Live at the Queen on Wednesday, backed by guitarist Chris Bruce, keyboardist Jebin Bruni, and drummer Abraham Rounds. While she’ll also perform a few songs from her own catalogue, most of the show will focus on material written by or associated with Simone.
“I’m trying to aid people in re-experiencing her music,” Ndegeocello says. “I want people to remember the amazing music and songwriting she was capable of.”
Pour Une Âme Souveraine certainly shines a spotlight on Simone’s artistry, but with Ndegeocello’s inimitable, uncategorizable approach intact. There’s never any attempt to recreate Simone’s sound; each song is given a distinctly modern reimagining, shot through with soul, funk, jazz, gospel, and rock touches. “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” opens, driven by Bruce’s knife-edged guitar riff and Ndegeocello’s hushed, repentant vocal. It continues with a country-gospel take on Simone’s take on Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne,” a funk rave-up “House of the Rising Sun,” a skulking “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair,” a dark, haunting “Four Women.”
A number of guests join in the celebration: Toshi Reagon on the bright, twangy “Real Real,” Sinead O’Connor on the swaying, hypnotic “Don’t Take All Night,” Lizz Wright on the deeply-felt blues of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” and Cody ChestnuTT revisiting “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin.
The latter (written with Weldon Irvine) reflects Simone’s Civil Rights-era boldness, a determination to display her anger and frustration at a time when such outspokenness carried real consequences. “I didn’t live during the Civil Rights era,” Ndegeocello says, “so just to think that this was possible, that there was an artist out there participating in that way, is awe-inspiring. ‘Mississippi Goddamn’ should be in the same realm as certain Pete Seeger songs. It’s music to remind people of what was going on during that time.”
Despite the strong parallels between them, Ndegeocello didn’t discover Simone’s music until she was in her early 20s, shortly after she moved to New York City. Continue reading →
American neo-soul pioneer Michelle Lynn Johnson, also known by the stage moniker Meshell Ndegeocello, is performing Pour Une Ame Souveraine: A Tribute to Nina Simone tonight at World Café Live. The tribute album, which was released last week, includes fourteen covers of the late jazz singer’s hits, including “Be My Husband” featuring Valerie June. The show begins at 7:30; further details here. Below you can listen to Ndegeocello and June’s funky cover of “Be My Husband.”
Ethereal lo-fi Philly band Sunset Recorder will be performing tonight at Kung Fu Necktie. The 21+ show starts at 8; more ticket information can be found here. The trio recorded an EP in 2011, Tuning Into The Universe, which you can listen to below.
Meshell Ndegeocello is releasing a new album called Weather next Tuesday. It was produced by Joe Henry. Meshell is performing at World Cafe Live on Monday, November 14th. Go here for tickets and show information. Below, download “Dirty World” from her new album.