Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Hands of the Priestess: Nina Simone 85

As promised, we are back with more essential Black History Month tributes for February... and today's honoree ought need precious little introduction.
As with Yoko Ono three days previous, she was born in 1933 and although she's been gone from us for well past a decade there is zero chance of her slipping away, missed by the mists of history's lists.
One of the integral voices of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, her music provides and will continue to resonate as a thoroughly unique chronicle of the changes of our epoch.
In her heyday she moved effortlessly between frameworks and genres, and was perhaps the World Champion of being able to use material from all walks of song and experience to transmit her message of dignity.
She had one toe in Chanson, one in Jazz, one in Soul, one in Rock, one in Classical, and both feet in using the power of sound and expression to make a cohesive statement about the imperative need for human equality in our world.
I'll say it: if Nina Simone was alive and kicking today, the cartoon shitscape of a social construct we see spitting in our dourly mocked faces on a daily basis would in no way go unchallenged.
Can you imagine what she'd be saying about the police murder of Black people at traffic stops? About five white predators "owning" the lion's share of all global resources? About the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? 
Sometimes I feel like I most regret people like her, or Bill Hicks, or Will Rogers, or Mr. Rogers dying mainly because you wonder what changeweight their voice and their passionate power of persuasion could exercise on the world as it is.
It doesn't matter and it's all water under the bridge, but sometimes it's a fun notion to entertain: what creative ways would Nina find to excoriate the haters and paint them into the corners they can't seem to get around? In the Sims game of Planet Earth, she'd be a pretty glorious cheat code anyway.
So she'd have been the super-milestone 85 today, and in honor of her inestimable and continuing contributions to the culture of our lifetimes and beyond I have just the delicious tidbits for your tweeters.
These are two scintillatingly intimate European radio broadcasts of performances from 1977, a particularly elevated year in the Simone oeuvre. These are both pristine captures that, but for the one DJ voiceover in one of the shows, you'd never know weren't official live documents of the High Priestess of Soul in action.
Nina Simone
European broadcasts, 1977

Festival de Jazz d'Antibes
Juan-les-Pins, France

01 Ne Me Quitte Pas
02 My Way
03 Plain Gold Ring
04 Please Read Me
05 I Love to Love
06 Just Say I Love Him (DJ voiceover at end)
07 Four Women
08 I Loves You Porgy
09 Let's Stick Together
10 Be My Husband
11 Alabama Song
12 In Our Childhood's Bright Endeavor
13 In My Life/Let's Stick Together (reprise)

Total time: 52:54

Nina Simone - piano, voice
Al Schackman - guitar, vibes, percussion

master digicapture of a 2017 European radio rebroadcast

Theatre Royal Drury Lane
London, UK

01 Balm In Gilead
02 Balm In Gilead (reprise)
03 Rich Girl
04 Little Girl Blue
05 The Other Woman
06 Turning Point
07 Pirate Jenny
08 Pirate Jenny (reprise)
09 Everything Must Change
10 That's All I Want from You
11 Ain't Got No/I Got Life

Total time: 49:21

Nina Simone - piano & vocals

Tracks 1-10 are a master FM cassette capture, Track 11 is a 1st gen cassette of a master reel capture

both shows zipped together
These are magnificent concerts, with Miss Simone issuing various hilarious asides to the people in the front row at both of them, and making fun of how she's gotta watch what she says between songs or the promoter will say she's being "bitchy again!"
Anyway I couldn't let her 85th pass without taking note of it, so you know what to do as far clicking and picking on the link above. I'll return on Saturday with a groovy fusion boom in tribute to another of the stellar melinated here in BHM, but for now a happiest of b'days to the immortal Nina Simone!--J.
2.21.1933 - 4.21.2003