Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Summertime, part 1: Simone

Apple Trees - Chris Cook
Apple Trees, Chris Cook

In the spirit of summer rules, summer hours and doing something a little different, the rest of this week will be devoted to short takes on versions of George and Ira Gershwin's "Summertime." An estimated 2,500 have been recorded since the Broadway premiere of Porgy and Bess in 1935. No, I'm not going to tackle all of them. And they won't necessarily be the most obvious or even the best renditions. Though I'm going to start with an awesome, adventurous reading of the standard...

Summertime - Nina Simone

Simone's full-on voice is a long time coming--almost three minutes--but there before you know it, murmuring sotto voce, "um hum, bah dah dah dah" on the tail of ominous stalking bass and her own thudding low octave keys. And she rewards her audience for their patience with her magnificent presence and command--defiance even--effortlessly drawing "time," "easy," "high," "cry" over innumerable bars and underplaying what usually marks the most dramatic moment in the song's composition: the progression to a major chord at "hush." But this is Simone's song, a faithless, flirtatious smoke-and-whiskey improvisation that comes to a crisis almost immediately ("One of these mornings... take to the skies") with tense, rattling piano and shuddering cymbal.

From Trouble In Mind (eMusic), and originally on Live at Town Hall (US, UK).

Tomorrow, John Fahey.

For more summer fun, check out Berkeley Place's weeklong block party. I made a little guest contribution yesterday with my favorite three songs of the year so far.


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