Nina Simone saved Ledisi’s life. Now she pays tribute on an album.


On Friday, Ledisi will pay homage to the woman who brought her back from despair with “Ledisi Sings Nina,” an album that features seven of Simone’s most popular songs remade in orchestral, jazz and pop arrangements. They showcase both the diversity and depth of Simone’s musicality and the breathtaking range and scope of Ledisi’s own voice.

Ledisi’s career, now two decades deep, seemed predestined. Born Ledisi Young in New Orleans, she comes from a long line of black musicians. Her mother, Nyra Dynese, was a soul singer; his stepfather, Joseph Pierce III, drummer; and his biological father, Larry Saunders, was both the son of blues artist Johnny Ace and a singer in his own right, best known for his single “On the Real Side” which he released as Prophet. of Soul.

When Ledisi first appeared on stage with the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra at the age of 8, it was both a revelation and a continuation. Five years later, her family moved to Oakland, where she went on to set up her funk bank, Anibade. In 2000, she independently released her first solo album, “Soulsinger: The Revival,” and its follow-up, “Feeling Orange but Sometimes Blue,” which was critically acclaimed, a grassroots fanbase and eventual contract. ‘registration with Verve.

Pigeonhole as a jazz singer, Ledisi was both highly respected and specialized in an industry that didn’t really know how to market it. Appearing on the first “Black Girls Rock!” televised from BET! ceremony in 2010, she and R&B sensation Marsha Ambrosius, Jill Scott and Kelly Price stole the show with their rendition of Simone’s “Four Women” anthem. Ledisi had only one request: that she handle the song’s climaxing ending about Peaches, the fiery character in this epic of four black women, each distinguished by their age, skin color and resistance to their racial and sexual trauma.

When Ledisi got her 34 seconds, she “made it count,” she said, shouting “My name is Peaches!” with such fierce determination and a subversive spirit that she has made numerous appearances on the BET tribute scene.

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