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NINA SIMONE – YOU’VE GOT TO LEARN (2023)

It may just have been released on Verve Records, but this archive recording is actually from the Newport Jazz Festival in 1966. While, I cannot share Jazzwise magazine’s gushing ***** review, I do recognise this as an important piece of jazz, soul and blues musicology. The heart-wrenching title track reveals Simone in strident voice and precise and dramatic in her underestimated piano playing. The standard ‘I Loves You Porgy’ is greeted with predictable applause, but is not the most engaging version I have heard. ‘Gutbucket Blues’ is a vamp blues with fluent piano runs and rather primitive electric guitar work by Rudy Stevenson. ‘Be My Husband’ is just Nina and drummer Bobby Hamilton.

While it is Nina’s regular studio band who appear, they sound a bit under-rehearsed to me (although they do show what they are capable of in a swinging and rousing version of the protest song ‘Mississippi Goddam’). Nina seems most comfortable on solo numbers like the charming ‘Music for Lovers’, the encore, and overall “You’ve Got to Learn” is a patchy (and short – 33 minutes) recording, essential only for Nina Simone’s most loyal fans.

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