Rediscovering Meshell Ndegeocello16 Jan 2005
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.