Simone on Simone
“I would like to introduce my daughter,” says Nina Simone on the opening cut of this album, bringing on a young woman born Lisa Celeste Stroud and then playing piano behind her on “Music for Lovers.” Stroud took the single stage name Simone in tribute to her mother, and Simone on Simone, her debut album at age 45, is also a tribute. Prior to it, Simone both carved her own place in show business and occasionally took advantage of her lineage. She built up a career in musical theater, appearing in national tours of Jesus Christ Superstar, Rent and Aida before making her Broadway debut as a replacement cast member in Aida. And she toured in a show called “Daughters of Soul” with other offspring of famous performers. On Simone on Simone, she sings many songs recorded by her mother (but not many of her mother’s better known songs).
“I could do gospel and jazz in my sleep,” she claims in her press bio, while admitting, “I was more of a funk and R&B kind of singer.” Actually, she sounds more like a trained stage singer, deliberately using elements of traditional pop and R&B to build theatrical performances. She has a powerful voice that sounds practically nothing like her mother’s, either in terms of timbre or style. The jazz content of Simone on Simone is provided exclusively by the musicians in the Rob Stoneback Big Band. On several of the tracks, especially early on, the songs are given swing arrangements out of the 1940s, with Simone serving largely as the girl singer and horn players taking extensive solos. On others, she dominates, making personal statements such as “Child in Me,” in which she both confesses her love for her mother and criticizes her for being gone for most of her childhood.