By Nia Hightower, DC Music Live
Though Ndegeocello released a new album in November, Weather, she enjoys performing covers. Last year, she toured performing covers of Prince songs.
“The great thing about it is that the song is already there,” she says. “So, there’s already a great piece of wood to work with, and then I just try to carve it into an interesting shape.”
Covers can give songs a new feeling and be a celebration of the work and artist who created them.
Nina Simone is the musician’s latest muse. And though she doesn’t want to call it a tribute album, she hopes listeners will develop or rekindle an appreciation for the late jazz and soul singer best known for her songs about love, activism and haunting ballads such as “I Put A Spell on You” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” – a favorite of Ndegeocello’s.
“She’s an amazing songwriter, amazing vocalist and amazing musician. She definitely needs to be paid homage to as much as possible,” she says.
Ndegeocello is excited about performing at The Howard. Growing up in the Washington metropolitan area, she recalls the history surrounding the venue — more than a century old.
“I was around toward the very end of it,” she says. “My memories are quite cloudy, but I’m very excited that it had such a very prestigious opening.”
The Duke Ellington School of Arts graduate’s parents still maintain a home in the area, and she comes to the city often since it’s only a five-hour drive from her Upstate New York residence.
“I consider D.C. where I spent my formative years,” she says. “Coming from the go-go scene, I think that’s definitely enhanced my sense of live performing and in terms of groove perspectives. It’s a place where jazz, rock and soul all coexist.”
And yes. A cover or two can be found on the album – one by Leonard Cohen, “Chelsea Hotel,” and another by late 1960s and 1970s soul group The Soul Children, “Don’t Take my Kindness for Weakness.”
“[Weather] is all about songs. It’s not a concept record,” she says. “People listen to songs individually now. Not as a complete whole. I think my only idea was that all these songs could stand alone, individually.
Weather features a mix of that soulful, sometimes-soft, sometimes-electric folk sound that Ndegeocello brings to her work. She calls it 21st-century music.
“It’s very important to me that whoever is listening to it doesn’t come to it wanting to relate it to other things. I want them to just have an ability to take it in.”