Album: Nina Simone at Town Hall
Performer: Nina Simone
Writer: George Gershwin
“Summertime” is an obvious choice for a summer playlist. Nina Simone’s take on the song is one of my favorites. It is a very unique and dark interpretation of the classic. The recording I’m referencing is from a live album she recorded at The Town Hall in New York in 1959.
I’m always captivated when I have the chance to listen to live recordings of artists – especially recordings from times before I was born. It is a transporting experience. This recording is exceptional. The performance is exquisite and I feel as though I am in the balcony listening to one of the greatest American women to ever sing.
What makes this recording especially unique musically are Nina Simone’s phrasing choices. She let’s the band spread out on the form for almost 3 minutes before singing. When she does come in, the piano is playing the recognizable melody while she sings the lyric in a call-and-response fashion with the piano, improvising her own melody.
She brings a great amount of weight and humanity to the song. She turns Gershwin’s show tune into a dark lullaby which ends on a note of hope.
Check out the “Summer” playlist I put together on Spotify: