Live albums can throw a mix off with an artist and strip down their polished sound, allowing for a more personal approach to the often mastered stereo style. Through this, there is a reason and necessity to focus attention on the space itself and see how the artist reacts within the venue. Nina Simone At Carnegie Hall is one of the most professional, and mesmerizing live performances to ever be recorded and pressed onto vinyl.
It would be featuring Nina Simone as the lead vocalist and pianist, with Alvin Schackman and Phil Orlando on the guitars, Lisle Atkinson on the bass, a pivotal part of Simone’s performance. Roger Sanders who was better known as “Montego Joe”, and The Malcolm Dodds Singers on a back up performance. While what Simone performs is moving and touching, she does reach into doing covers and works from other artists. This was common for Simone, but here, there is a gracefulness that is never truly captured on her refined studio efforts. The whirl of piano on “Theme from Samson and Delilah,” or the moving display of “Black Swan” which opens At Carnegie Hall is still chilling to this day.
There is subtle piano that sets the mood for Simone as she is imagined to creep onto the stage, in a smooth, almost prowling style that is reflective of a skillful animal. Her voice is incredibly textured and able to adapt into this new found environment of Simone’s first solo appearance at Carnegie. She fits like a final puzzle piece that continues to give that feeling of satisfaction over an extended period of time until finally brining in a wider range of instrumentation through near-perfect pacing.
Her eloquence is something that Simone has always been able to manage, keeping a tight grip on the microphone as she tells stories that are both personal, and based off a society around Simone. She becomes this storyteller that avoids the antiquation and decides to move forward with the sound. She dives low and submits this synonymous nature with the instruments that has Simone working hand in hand as the music shifts and does a waltz with her. The arrangement, showmanship, and final moments of At Carnegie Hall are just as moving and substantial as when she begins.
Simone performs “The Twelveth of Never” which has an influential step that is equally as gripping, as it is translated well from the roadmap that the backing band lays. The music has a huge part that is due to showcasing a side of Simone that is able to be tapped into rather easily. Her style is simply beautiful, but never becomes overbearing in a sense. She works tirelessly to achieve this grand scale, but without sacrificing the personality of her voice.
At Carnegie Hall is just as touching as it could have been as when it was first released. From the 1960’s to near 2020, Nina Simone continues to impress and showcase an ability that is beyond comprehension at certain moments. She moves crowds and shines in a way that still knows no ceiling.