While many consider San Francisco the Mecca for all things hippie, there is apparently more to it than that. For starters renowned Jazz vocalist Kim Nalley stakes her claim there, oh and Monk lives there too.
Kim Nalley is a classically trained vocalist who probably doesn't sleep a whole lot. She has starred in movies such as Swing! and Teatro Zinzanni, she has produced numerous historical Jazz shows, she has just released her tenth album, and she performs regularly at Jazz clubs and festivals throughout the USA, Japan, and Europe. Did I mention that she and her husband own the famous Jazz club Jazz at Pearl's, which they moved back to the U.S from Europe in order to purchase, save, and restore? Kim Nalley is obviously a busy woman, somehow though she found time to record her latest album, She Put a Spell On Me: Kim Nalley Sings Nina Simone. To put it mildly, this is a great, great album.
I have to admit that I was largely unfamiliar with Nina Simone's work aside from a song here or there but Ms. Nalley has turned me into a Nina Simone fan for the rest of my life. Nalley is simply breathtaking throughout much of this album. While there are no low points here per se, personal preference plays a bigger role on this album than it does on a lot of other ones. This is, of course, partly due to the fact that it is a compilation at heart.
The album opens with the up tempo "My Baby Just Cares For Me." This one has a great piano riff that lands somewhere between pop and vaudeville in sound but Nalley's voice quickly that familiar smooth Jazz flavor to it. The hoppin See-Line Woman is my personal favorite. Your toes will be tappin and head will be bouncing before Nalley evens starts singing. If you close your eyes you can almost look around the smoky Jazz club she takes you too with it. The call and response between the voices (and to a degree with the guitar work) is as catchy as they come. The slower, emotional House of the Rising Sun showcases Nalley's breathtaking voice in a slightly different way. "House of the Rising Sun" is one of the songs where Nalley really lets loose and it's her voice that unquestionably leads the song. Her voice is so powerful on this song that you have to keep yourself from simply listening to this song over and over.
Jazz enthusiast will love this album- Nalley channels Simone superbly and yet brings enough of herself into the mix to make it her own as well. The album reaches far outside of the traditional Jazz boundaries in my opinion though and I believe that any fan of great music will enjoy what Kim Nalley has to offer on She Put a Spell on Me.