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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Little Girl Blue




Black Swann

Black is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair

Little Girl Blue

Fodder on my Wings

Hey Buddy Bolden


Brahms-Bach: Schmücke Dich, o Liebe Seele, Op.122 No.5

You Can Have Him

I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free

That’s All I Want From You

Brown Baby


Rachmaninoff: Sonata in G minor, Op.19; Andante

Come Ye

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Sonia Wieder-Atherton (cello)

Bruno Fontaine (piano): Laurent Kraif (percussions)

Recorded April 2014, Salle Colonne, Paris [74:35]

It’s best not to depend on the booklet notes from cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton, as they go all vaporous and poetic about her album devoted to the music of Nina Simone. Supercilious critics would quote a line or two to get a rise out of it, but I’ll suggest merely that it must all sound better in French. Let’s get straight to the music.

It’s an unusual tribute for a cellist to pay homage to a singer. But with pianist Bruno Fontaine and Laurent Kraif adding percussion colour it’s very much a personal slant that’s being taken, not a simplistic one. Black Swann offers swaying lines over percussive wash, whilst the harp-like accompaniment conveyed by Kraif offers colouristic support to the keening, slow-moving cello line. The tone is often lyric-Classical in tone and execution, and Little Girl Blue shows how well the melody lines can swap between cello and piano. Hey Buddy Bolden gets back to basics with just percussion to adduce an African slant to the cello line. Solo intensity comes in Images, where the cellist communes powerfully. The inclusion of Brahms’ arrangement of Bach’s Schmücke Dich, o Liebe Seele, Op.122 No.5 reminds the listener that Simone was classically trained and wanted to become a concert pianist. You’ll also find Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata slow movement played straight.

You Can Have Him emphasises the melancholy – not, here, the anger – to be encountered often in Simone’s own music though I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free – the title an irony not to be ignored – is enlivened by tap-dancing-like percussive statements and a Ragtime feel. One of the pieces I admired most here is Stars, a passionate piece that keeps on building up.

This is a very different approach to saluting Simone’s memory. It will not satisfy those Jazz lovers who feel it too allusive, too Classical, and perhaps too rarefied and reposeful. Best to sample.

Jonathan Woolf

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