Meshell Ndegeocello sinks into Nina Simone

Courtesy PhotoLatest project: Bassist-vocalist Meshell Ndegeocello recently recorded an album of Nina Simone songs.

Courtesy PhotoLatest project: Bassist-vocalist Meshell Ndegeocello recently recorded an album of Nina Simone songs.

There’s a method to her creative madness, says former Bay Area resident Meshell Ndegeocello, whose projects range from covering work by Prince and Gil Scott-Heron to the new album “Pour une Ame Souveraine (For a Sovereign Soul) — A Dedication to Nina Simone.” It’s all about casual confidence. “I don’t want to be this jazz musician who thinks everything I fart out is super-special,” says the bassist. “And I don’t want to be a pop musician, where how you dress and everything about you is on display. My attitude is, ‘Let’s just go out and play, have a good time and see where we get to.’ I even appreciate a heckler every now and then!”

How did you first get into Nina Simone?

In the early ’90s, I’d just gotten to New York, and a friend of mine played her for me. And I’d never heard anyone with such an amazing voice like that. And her music has a really heavy vibe — sometimes too heavy.

But why an entire Simone covers set?

It was totally Toshi Reagon — she was doing this “Women in Jazz” series in Harlem, and I chose to focus on Nina Simone. And then everyone asked me, “Hey, are you going to record this?” So it took on a life of its own, and we recorded it in just six days.

How did you rope Sinead O’Connor into doing “Don’t Take All Night” with you?

I did a performance with her in Australia and we just got along really well. I think she’s an icon herself — probably one of our greatest living singers. But I featured her because I just needed to make these songs sound like I heard them in my head.

How do you approach a classic such as “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”?

I think everyone in that room that was playing all had their own relationships with that song and Nina Simone, and we came at it with all the little aspects of it that we’d heard and loved in the past. But we just modernized it and made it our own.

A tribute album makes sense. It can’t be easy to write an original song these days, right?

Not to be a Bible-thumper, but there really is nothing new under the sun. So I’m just trying to play well, sing well, surround myself with other good players, and hopefully when people spend $15 to see me, they’ll say “I heard some good music, I had a couple of beers with my friends, and I had a good time.” And maybe those simple pleasures will have great value for some.

artsentertainmentMeshell NdegeocellomusicPop Music & Jazz

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The City has struggled to conduct outreach in some neighborhoods as it works to expand Slow Streets — such as this section of Page Street in the Lower Haight — to underserved neighborhoods. <ins>(Jordi Molina/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
SFMTA delays vote on Bayview Slow Streets, approves five others in ‘underserved’ areas

SFMTA struggles to conduct outreach in neighborhoods with lower internet access

Stern Grove Festival organizers are planning to bring back the popular summer concert series — The Isley Brothers show in 2019 is pictured — with limited audience capacity. (Ming Vong/S.F. Examiner)
Indoor shows won’t be flooding SF stages soon but Stern Grove might be back in June

While San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that live performances may resume… Continue reading

San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto  (47) started on Opening Day against the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park on April 9, 2021. (Photography by Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner).
Giants welcome fans back with strong performance by Cueto

By Ethan Kassel Special to S.F. Examiner ORACLE PARK — The first… Continue reading

James Harbor appears in court after he was arrested on charges in the July 4th shooting death of 6-year-old Jace Young on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Murder case heads to trial over killing of 6-year-old Jace Young

Hearing reveals new details in ‘horrific’ Fourth of July shooting

BART passengers may see more frequent service by this fall. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
BART service increases possible as soon as September

Proposal would double weekday, daytime trains and extend system operating hours

Most Read