Nina Simone: Mood Indigo-The Complete  Bethlehem Singles

Before she became better known as a civil rights activist and protest singer, Nina Simone was being groomed to be a kind of Sarah Vaughan with  piano skills. This album collects here late 50s to early 60s singles when she had a trio with Albert “Tootie” Heath/dr and Jimmy Bond/b, and she mixes her own compositions with jazz standards with ease, making one wonder what would have happened if she had continued on this path.

Her rich sorghum voice is palpable on pieces such as “Porgy,” and is personal and restrained on “He Needs Me” while including a delicate and thoughtful vibrato during “ Little Girl Blue.” These singles give hint of her later direction where she took the listener on deep and shadowy journeys.

The intriguing tracks are where she interprets jazz material, bopping with assertion on the clever read of “Mood Indigo,” slinky with the swing on “Good Bait” and mixing bop with Bach on “For All We Know” while her own “African Mailman” is a rich and exotic gumbo. Fascinating feel and beginnings.

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