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Heritage: “A tradition, etc., handed down from one’s ancestors of the past”
- (Webster’s New World Dictionary)
She is her own woman, a singer, songwriter and performer whose ability to transcend genres echoes the tradition of her mother, musical icon and pioneer NINA SIMONE. Blessed with a rich vocal range, an innate skill for lyrical interpretation and a soul-deep understanding of music as a means of healing, empowerment and celebration, Simone is very much her mother’s daughter, she is most assuredly a multi-talented artist in her own right.
A highly-praised live performer whose impressive resume includes starring roles on Broadway in such acclaimed musicals as Rent and Aida, Simone has developed an exciting and diverse repertoire of pop, soul, jazz, rock and funk, expressed in shows she’s done throughout the U.S. and in the UK, Ireland, Holland, Finland, Spain and France. With the upcoming February 2008 release of her first full-length album, Simone On Simone (a big band tribute to her mother produced by famed jazz musician and arranger Bob Belden), music lovers worldwide will discover
the vocal dynamism that live audiences have witnessed for over a decade. “This is my tribute to my mother, a chance for me to do the songs I love the most the way I hear them. It’s a glimpse of my life over four decades…”
On April 21, 2006, three years after her mother’s passing, Simone paid tribute to her at Town Hall in New York, at the very venue where forty-seven years earlier a 26-year old Nina Simone had enjoyed her first major show in the city. Simone’s spellbinding, soulful performance turned into the genesis for the recording of Simone On Simone. “The idea had been pitched to me before but I had been writing a lot of my own material for almost ten years and my goal was to record those songs. It felt like an obstacle between me and that goal to do a tribute record to my mother. But after the Town Hall performance, I started considering it seriously…”
Fortunate to have gotten over fifty of her mother’s original arrangements, Simone began working with producer Bob Belden (whose credits include work with Herbie Hancock, Cassandra Wilson, Sting and Chick Corea) on the recording project, culling eleven songs from Nina Simone’s repertoire, including one live performance on which her mother accompanied her and featuring one poignant and highly personal song, “Child In Me” which Simone fondly refers to as “my love song to my mother.”
Choosing a big band setting for the project, Simone notes, “I never really listened to jazz growing up and I’ve always been approached to do jazz. I was more of a funk and R&B kind of singer, along the lines of a Chaka Khan but the truth is, I could do gospel and jazz in my sleep, given the presence of my mother’s music around me since I was born…” Aware that music buyers may wonder “if I sound like my mother,” Simone has approached the recording of Simone On Simone with a commitment to putting her own distinctive stamp on the songs she’s chosen.
She succeeds admirably turning in tour-de-force performances on little-known gems from her mother’s recorded repertoire such as “Keeper Of The Flame,” “I Hold No Grudge” and “Don’t You Pay Them No Mind” (all from Nina Simone’s 1966 LP High Priestess Of Soul) as well as reworkings of such classics as “Feeling Good,” “Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair” (given a completely new and original twist), “Work Song,” the spirited “(You’ll) Go To Hell” and swinging versions of “Love Me Or Leave Me” and Duke Ellington’s “Gal From Joe’s.” Rounding out her first of many future albums: “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” (the Billy Taylor tune closely identified with her mother as one of the potent message songs which were so much a part of Nina Simone’s catalog of music with themes of freedom, self-empowerment and justice for all) and “How Long Must I Wander,” a plaintive song that speaks to Simone’s own formative years traveling across the globe with her mother.
Encouraged by the constant support of God, family, friends and fans, Simone says her commitment is to “keep singing, keep writing, keep performing, spreading the word, spreading the healing, spreading the message and spreading the love!” With a rich heritage to draw from, a wealth of accomplishments and accolades as a Broadway star and live performer and a finely-developed sense of her own unique artistry, Simone is ready to establish herself as a successful recording artist of the first order. She’s off to a wonderful start with Simone On Simone, an album that honors her mother’s musical contribution while beginning a new chapter in her own musical journey.