“...I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: No fear. I mean, really, no fear! If I could have that half my life, no fear, that’d be something else...like a new way of seeing...” -- Stephen Rodis, Nina Simone: A Historical Perspective (1968)
Nina Simone was not a jazz, blues, folk or pop singer. Or she was all those things. She once said, if her music must have a label it would be most accurate to call it “Black classical music.” Even with that, though, she can’t really be categorized. She sang and played whatever she pleased. It was always the truth.
“Nina Simone was the greatest interpreter of sadness and feelings of our times.” -- Miles Davis
“...where jazz artists explore the melodic and harmonic possibilities within any given song, Nina Simone’s artistry is about exploring the emotional and spiritual possibilities. More to the point, she used a piece of music as a vehicle to achieve emotional and spiritual states.” -- world music critic Randall Grass, Great Spirits
Most fans, friends, music critics and fellow artists remember Nina Simone’s unique power to transform an audience -- even to affect trance, transport, transcendence. She was dubbed the “High Priestess of Soul” by a record label. That might have been clever branding at the time, but the phrase is not in her case hyperbole.
In the world, she was untampered, imperious, unstable and difficult at times. In music, she was uncompromising -- a force to be reckoned with. Despite or because of her musical gift, Nina Simone suffered. A sore grief over failing to realize her dream to become a concert pianist never quite healed. Her rage against racism and discrimination in the US never resolved. She lived and worked through mental illness, violence, and huge loneliness. She was, in a way, a wounded healer. In the end, her gift endures. Her music has the uncanny power to move at-depth today.
I first heard Nina Simone’s voice at 19, on a soundtrack to a movie. I wore out that first $3.99 greatest hits cassette tape. I felt like I had discovered a precious treasure. I felt a kinship with her music, her aesthetic. These 25 years later, her music and her message take my breath away, continue to reveal to me...well, big, expansive stuff. To explore this one-of-a-kind artistic voice at The Shedd and for you all -- oh! It is for me a great, great joy.
Our show includes songs which are among Nina Simone’s best: "I Loves You Porgy", "Sinnerman", "My Baby Just Cares for Me", "Little Girl Blue", and (how could we leave it out?) "Feeling Good". We will also perform some of her lesser-known, though exquisite, pop, folk and classical song interpretations. Truly, as a vast number of songs and styles in her discography are considered “essential” Nina Simone, this program is eclectic, diverse and powerful as the pianist- singer herself.
On that last, yet very important note, the piano: I am most delighted to partner with Eugene pianist and arranger Nathan Alef, along with band members Jesse Cloninger, reeds; Milo Fultz, bass; Jack Radsliff, guitar and drummer Merlin Showalter, in creating this layered and moving musical story of a true original American musical voice, Nina Simone. -- Siri Vik
This concert is eligible for The Shedd's Free Shedd Jazz Student Ticket
program, which makes a limited number of free tickets to 2015-16 Shedd jazz concerts available to students elementary through college. The program is made possible by a grant from Chamber Music America
and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
. Contact The Shedd Ticket Office for information.