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    Nina Simone - Nina Simone at Town Hall

    Recorded by renowned jazz vocalist and pianist Nina Simone in 1959 and released that same year, At Town Hall succeeds largely on its intimacy. Many singers of the period would surround themselves with everything up to and including a full orchestra. Here, Simone is backed by just drums and bass. The album’s cover highlights this, showing Simone in spotlight, seated, alone at the piano. She performs a healthy mix of material from esteemed songwriters like George and Ira Gershwin and Irving Berlin alongside two traditional numbers, two of her own compositions and even one borrowed from contemporary Billie Holiday.

    As an album, it’s stirring from the get-go, with Simone introducing “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair” with a grandiose, twisting pairing of melody and chords on piano before singing much of the song itself practically acapella—the audience so quiet that you can hear them coughing and shifting in their seats. Simone is particularly captivating essaying the topic of infidelity via a perspective fixed on “The Other Woman.” Her version of “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” meanwhile, is certainly better than Rednex.