Rediscovering Meshell Ndegeocello

I recently rediscovered Meshell Ndegeocello. I had been really disappointed by the concert I had seen of her last year on the Blue Note festival and hadn’t listened to any of her CDs for that time. Basically I was disappointed to see such a talent go to waste.

Who is Meshell? A small black woman with a deep groovy voice and by far one of the funkiest bass players around.
I’ve been a fan of hers since 1993, when her first album “Plantation Lullabies” came out. She was funky, gutsy and tongue-in-cheek (“If that’s your boyfriend, he wasn’t last night”). I saw her live and she rocked. When she laid down a bass groove, the place exploded. Man, she could play! In the follow-up album “Peace Beyond Passion” (1996), she used the Old Testament as inspiration. As unsexy as that may sound, it was also an excellent album, musically exploring the borders between jazz, funk and R&B and with strong lyrics. The 3rd album, “Bitter” (1999) was exactly what the title suggests: tales of grief, deception and lots of heart ache. Who ever broke her heart, did it really thoroughly. The music was also very slow, dramatic and, to be honest, depressing. I didn’t buy any of the later albums, Cookie (2002) or Comfort Woman(2003) after that.

I was however really looking forward to seeing her again live last year. But instead of steaming funk or intimate ballads, we got ‘free jazz’. She had brought a new band of “avant-garde” musicians. It was an endless cacaphony of jazz masturbation. The only moments the crowd actually enjoyed, were those when the Queen of Wicked Bass took the front stage and showed that she still had more skill in her right thumb that the rest of the band together. Unfortunately those moments were few and short.

At least when Spinal Tap played its “Free-Form Jazz Exploration“, it was funny.

6 thoughts on “Rediscovering Meshell Ndegeocello”

  1. Yesterday evening (9th of April 2005) we had the same experience in Paradiso in Amsterdam. Only jazz, no singing, no songs from her albums. Disappointing

  2. Perhaps Meshell is just too adventurous for some tastes. Each of her albums has gone in new directions, from the neo-soul of her debut to the psychedelic funk-folk of Bitter to the full-on hip-hop of Cookie. MeShell is a true free spirit, and her latest is just like that concert you saw — wonderful, exuberent, downright spiritual free jazz. Can’t believe you would say some of the very legends of jazz were less talented than MeShell. You may not like improvisational jazz, but calling people like Don Byron and Oliver Lake talentless is like calling friggin’ Hendrix or Coltrane talentless. You must not really be a music fan.

  3. When musicians choose to get on stage, they must have some desire to entertain their public. As talented as some of Me’Shells band might be, they were playing purely for themselves, otherwise they might have noticed the utter lack of enthusiasm coming from the audience.
    By the way, I am a music fan. That’s why I have an opinion to begin with. I actually even like jazz, but not the stuff they were playing. Does that make me unauthentic, dispassionate and stupid?

  4. i have never been to one of this sista’s concerts, but the albums i have purchased, have helped me spiritually. Not totall, because i have jesus. You facinate me. I want to do backng vocals with you. Email me, let me full-fill, one of my dreams.

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