Contemporary R&B Funk
Mercurial and masterful, Meshell Ndegeocello has survived the best and worst of what a career in music has to offer. She has eschewed genre for originality, celebrity for longevity, and musicals trends for musical truths. She has lived through the boom and bust of the industry and emerged just as she entered – unequivocally herself. Fans have come to expect the unexpected from Meshell, and faithfully followed her on sojourns into soul, spoken word, R&B, jazz, hip-hop, rock, all bound by a lyrical, spiritual search for love, justice, respect, resolution, and happiness.
Groove driven, infectiously melodic and lyrically meditative, Meshell’s latest album, Comet, Come To Me, finds her returning to the same well of creativity that launched her career. Her 11th release, it is possibly a culmination of all previous work: lush, vocal, seeking, wise, collaborative, and driven by the signature bounce and precise pocket of Ndegeocello on bass. The album features special guests Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) and Doyle Bramhall, along with long-time collaborators Christopher Bruce (guitar) and Jebin Bruni (keys), and Earl Harvin on drums. Assured of her place as an authentic musical thinker and an uncompromising artist, Comet continues to discover, examine, and explore all that music has to offer her and how she can return the gift.
“Comet, Come To Me was a little labor but a lot of love. It was made with my favorite collaborators, and it felt good to channel the sounds in my mind after having Nina in residence for a while,” ” says Meshell, referencing her last album, a tribute to Nina Simone. She is especially inspired by the collaborative process that comes with making an album. “When I’m writing songs and recording the demos, I’m having my own awesome experience in my attic, or on a plane, or in a hotel room, just making my beats on my laptop. Then I get together with these people that I have an intimate musical relationship with, and we bring the songs to life.”
In addition to the thirteen new tracks on Comet, Come to Me (16 including the bonus tracks available on her website), fans of Meshell’s will no doubt be intrigued by her cover of Whodini’s “Friends”, a seminal hip-hop track originally released in 1984. Commenting on her inspiration for choosing this song, Meshell explains: “I play with a lot of people who play improvisational music and jazz, and I thought it would be fun to take something that they might think of as easy or straight-forward, and do something different with it. I also like how language is morphing, and ‘friends’ is such a malleable word, I don’t even know what it means anymore.”
A vast array of influences have informed all of Meshell’s albums, and there are traces of her native go-go, hip hop, R&B, new wave and punk in each. Each album has been a step away from the last, each used as a chance to investigate and integrate new sounds and ideas, and fans have been treated to everything from the deep-funk of Plantation Lullabies to the raw and confessional Bitter to the melodic, lyrical Weather. Possessed with instrumental gifts as diverse as her interests, Meshell composed, arranged and produced a jazz record in 2005. Her most recent release paid homage to Nina Simone, a kindred musical spirit and among Meshell’s most cherished inspirations.
In addition to her own recording, Meshell has been expanding her repertoire as a producer, producing three albums in the past year: British/Trinidadian poet and musician Anthony Joseph’s new album, Time; Jason Moran’s Fats Waller Tribute, All Rise: A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller (due Sept 2014); and a new album by Grammy-nominated Ruthie Foster, also set for release this fall.
A bass player above all else, Meshell brings her warm, fat, and melodic groove to everything she does and has appeared alongside the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Alanis Morrisette, James Blood Ulmer, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Tony Allen, John Medeski, Billy Preston, and Chaka Khan. As for her own bass-playing influences, she credits Sting, Jaco Pastorius, Family Man Barrett, and Stevie Wonder. Meshell was the first woman to be featured on the cover of Bass Player magazine and remains one of few women who write the music, sing the songs, and lead the band.
Ndegeocello broke onto the pop scene in the early 1990s with her debut album Plantation Lullabies, a sophisticated, nearly overwhelming mix of 1970s R&B and ’90s-era hip hop culture. While this record garnered critical and commercial success, it was clear that Ndegeocello was every bit as complex as her record let on. As the first female artist to be signed to Madonna’s Maverick Records, she made it clear she didn’t want to be pigeonholed or painted into a musical corner. Several acclaimed projects would echo this sentiment: Bitter, named Album of the Year by the NY Times, Newsweek, LA Daily and others; Cookie: An Anthropological Mixtape, described by Rolling Stone as “This is the record Prince keeps trying to make;” and two instrumental jazz albums (The Spirit Music Jamia and Dance of the Infidel).
Never content with staying in one place for very long, this singer/bassist/poet/keyboardist/producer keeps busy with touring and recording. After a career of more than 20 years, Meshell and her musicians Chris Bruce (guitar), Jebin Bruni (keys), and Deantoni Parks (drums) recorded a tribute to Nina Simone, reworking some of the most iconic songs associated with Simone’s legendary career. Meshell’s 10th album, Pour une ame souveraine (For a Sovereign Soul), features guests Sinéad O’Connor, Lizz Wright, Valerie June, Toshi Reagon and Cody Chesnutt. Pour une âme souveraine is a collection of classics made well known by Simone and have been given an inspiring and creative reinvention by Meshell and her very special guests, so honoring Nina Simone’s spirit.
What Other People Have Been Saying...
“Ndegeocello makes a natural accomplice to [Nina Simone's] legacy, and she tackles these songs with all due respect and understanding” -NPR
“In the search for love, truth and justice a good vamp never hurts. That’s the modus operandi of Meshell Ndegeocello.” -New York Times
“It’s astonishing to hear Ndegeocello deconstruct these 14 songs that cut across Simone’s deep discography. Whereas Simone would typically boil, Ndegeocello mostly prefers to simmer. “Turn Me On” and “Feeling Good,” seductive and slow as molasses, sound like something Sade would record.” -Boston Globe
“Recording and releasing a covers album is a tricky situation… However, if there’s any musician out there versatile enough to hold down all the demands of making a truly mesmerizing and significant tribute album, it’s the supremely talented Meshell Ndegeocello.” -Pop Matters