Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Ledisi: Ledisi Sings Nina (Listen Back)

A review of the Grammy-winning vocalist's latest album, dedicated to keeping her idol Nina Simone's energy alive

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.
Ledisi: Lesidi Sings Nina
The cover of Ledisi Sings Nina by Ledisi

Capturing the true spirit of singer, pianist, and activist Nina Simone is no easy feat, given that she was known for constantly moving boundaries both musical and political. But having spent years performing Simone’s music—and having a personal connection to her—Ledisi could be rightfully touted as the heir to her “High Priestess of Soul” title.

Ledisi credits Simone’s music for saving her life, recalling in this album’s liner notes, “I heard her when I was still very young—in Oakland in my twenties. I was depressed, my life was a mess, and I heard her on the radio singing ‘Trouble in Mind.’ … [T]hat song woke me up … Nina’s voice said to me I was not alone.”

That memory fuels Ledisi Sings Nina, in which she renders seven of Simone’s classics. Ledisi’s a cappella intro to “Feeling Good” hits you in the face like ice-cold water, and she scats like she invented scatting, all backed by the world-renowned Metropole Orkest.

On the Spanish-tinged standard “Wild Is the Wind,” she exercises her lower vocal range to match Simone’s; this is the album’s only live recording from her 2020 PBS special broadcast tribute to Simone. On “Four Women,” arguably one of the most controversial Simone hits, which celebrates Black women and condemns their societal stereotypes, Ledisi teams up with vocalists Lisa Fischer, Lizz Wright, and Alice Smith. Their vocal ranges and styles are different yet meld perfectly.

Ledisi never dares to imitate Simone’s singing; her focus is on keeping Simone’s energy alive. Throughout this otherworldly recording, she maintains her identity, while proving that she can hold her own in multiple genres, just like Nina.

Learn more about Ledisi Sings Nina on Amazon!

Veronica Johnson

Veronica Johnson is a freelance music writer from Detroit. She has written for Detroit-based publications Metro Times, Real Detroit Weekly, Model D, and The Michigan Historical Review, as well as the national jazz site The Jazz Line. Her work on Detroit hip-hop was published in the 2014 book A Detroit Anthology. She is also a board member of the Detroit Sound Conservancy, a grassroots Detroit music preservation organization.