Nina Simone (1933 – 2003) is one of the most influential musicians in modern music, nevermind the fact that she was an African American female piano player and singer. She recorded over 40 albums and toured internationally. She has inspired countless musicians, and it is a safe bet to say that she will inspire and influence generations to come.
Charleston Jazz Orchestra paid tribute to her tremendous talent in Little Girl Blue on Saturday, March 22 at Charleston Music Hall with a concert unlike anything I’ve seen. Three tremendous local singers, featured vocalist Leah Suárez, guest vocalists Aisha Kenyetta, and Lindsay Holler joined the Big Band on stage to recreate and reinterpret Nina Simone’s incredible legacy. The ladies sang with mastery and emotion; the energy and enthusiasm was palpable in the audience, the air, electric.
The CJO often performs songs that include vocalists, but this marked the first performance by them that I’ve seen that featured lyrics on (almost) every song. Suárez shined as the featured vocalist. It was truly one of the most moving performances she has given, perhaps because Suarez is so inspired by Simone. She was joined by Aisha Kenyetta and Lindsay Holler, and when the three sang together, it was pure magic.