Although Simone has received not one, but two compilations in the Verve Jazz Masters series, she was not really a jazz singer. As eclectic as they come, she sang folk, folk opera, art songs, spirituals, soul, standards, jazz, and, of course, songs of protest and social commentary that as Duke Ellington might say were--like her--"beyond category." Also, she'd usually accompany herself on piano in a restless, fluctuating style encompassing jazz, blues, and classical music. Simone's Let It All Out
album is typically all over the map program-wise, but the inclusion of "Mood Indigo," "Don't Explain," "Little Girl Blue," "This Year's Kisses," and "Love Me or Leave Me" make the case for her as a jazz singer—if not a totally committed or natural one.
Simone sang "Love Me or Leave Me" on her first-ever gig in 1954 at a bar in Atlantic City, where she also adopted her stage name. Whether or not she incorporated her classical training at Juilliard into her treatment of the tune back then, she certainly does so on this 1965 recording. The singer's Bach-tinged piano intro gives way to her rather Broadway/cabaret execution of the lyrics, with a forced sounding, rushed attempt to swing. Her well-played piano solo reignites the Bach focus of her intro in a Jacques Loussier manner that only appears ready to break out into true jazz flight at its very end. Simone's vocal reprise continues her showy approach, and she now also utilizes an off-putting, exaggerated vibrato at times. An obviously prearranged, jazzy instrumental tag by the group doesn't quite save the day. Simone sang a better version of "Love Me or Leave Me" in 1957 on her first session, Little Girl Blue
. One could make the argument that she was a better "jazz singer" early on than she was in later years, if you compare examples of tunes she recorded more than once in her career.
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How would two East Coasters (the MJQ's Lewis & Heath) match up with three West Coast jazzmen? Perfectly, thanks to most of them having Lester Young in common. Tenorman Bill Perkins was a Pres disciple, Hamilton gigged with Young in 1946, and Lewis was Lester’s early-1950s accompanist. No surprise they resurrect the laid-back swing exemplified by Pres's 1938 Kansas City Six. Bassist Heath even plays slightly on top of the beat ŕ la rhythm guitarist Freddie Green, and Chico gets in some passable Papa Jo Jones licks near the end. Here are modernists affectionately in touch with their roots.
Tags: love me or leave me
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