barabara sounds sez:
Time for some Nina. I always have time for some Nina. Especially this one from 1967, her first on RCA and one of my all-time favorites (and I love that cover art). She sure does sing those blues: file this under 'R' for Real Real.
dusty groove sez:
Nina's not just singing the blues here – she's completely reinventing the sound of the format – by drawing on a long tradition of vocal expression, and infusing it with the hipper, more personally exploratory mode she forged in the 60s! The album's got a subtle brilliance that means it's sometimes overlooked next to her more forceful work of the time – but it's every bit essential Simone as some of her other key sides of the decade. The group is a small combo featuring Eric Gale, Bernard Purdie, Buddy Lucas, and Ernest Hayes...
Do I Move You?; Day and Night; In the Dark; Real Real; My Man's Gone Now; Backlash Blues; I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl; Buck; Since I Fell for You; The House of the Rising Sun; Blues for Mama.
Nina Simone piano, vocals; Rudy Stevenson guitar; Eric Gale guitar; Bernard Purdie drums; Bob Bushnell bass; Ernest Hayes organ; Buddy Lucas harmonica, tenor sax.
Ah hell, let's make it a double: At Town Hall was the concert that put her on the map and made her a star. It was quite a performance. Here's a nifty review:
Despite being pound-for-pound the best straight-up jazz release in Simone’s catalogue, At Town Hall is strangely underrated. Lists of her signature tunes—“I Loves You Porgy,” “My Baby Just Cares For Me,” etc. — neglect the top flight fare here, like the hard swinging “Exactly Like You” or the deep, rumbling burn of “The Other Woman.” Simone even enters the old folk song “Black Is The Color of My True Loves Hair” — here given a vocal performance of impossibly subtlety — into the standard jazz repertoire without getting too much notice. Nevertheless, these tracks have the tight backing and titanic emotional force of the best Nina Simone, if not the best of her era.
Recorded partially live and partially in the studio, At Town Hall does suffer from a bit of the patchiness of Simone’s early albums. It’s strange that both an instrumental and vocal version of “Summertime” are included (or, depending on how you look at it, that Simone’s take has an intro longer than the song itself), and “Return Home” is an unfocused Afro-Cuban interlude. Yet even amongst these distractions, “Wild is the Wind” and Billie Holiday’s “Fine and Mellow” serve up Simone’s soulful jazz with formidable gusto. Her piano is expansive and thrilling without being overwrought, and the rhythm section is pitch perfect throughout. On balance, At Town Hall is an album of underrated classics, filled with stunning performances and one of the finest voices in the history of jazz. It’s all heartbreak gorgeously rendered, and while the few upbeat moments offer some reprieve, Simone’s staggering ballads sing the glory of love imperfect and love lost.
Black is the Color of my True Love's Hair; Exactly Like You; The Other Woman; Under the Lowest; You Can have Him; Summertime (instrumental); Summertime (vocal); Cotton-eyed Joe; Return Home; Wild is the WInd; Fine and Mellow.