'You'd be so nice to come home to' Nina Simone (Nina Simone at Newport, Colpix, 1960)

There's a verb in French which describes the sensation of being impressed by someone or something that also scares or intimidates you. Watch this video of Nick Cave talking of how much he owes Nina Simone. 

There is certain music you want to become part of your body, you want to ingest and keep it and make it part of you, embed it somehow under your skin - because its purity and beauty is something that stuns you, silences you.  

A few days ago, I listened to this ...


again and again and again and again (while waiting for a film to start, during all those French ads that trade on cruelty or a sheeny romance and then in the shopping centre until my wifi connection died, so then I walked back towards the multiplex so that I could hear it again). 

Riffing on Bach, on Gershwin, Nina Simone demolishes this track, to reconstruct it and make it her own. Building so extraordinarily from the humble opening, building and more with the other musicians to descend into a kind of controlled chaos,  speeding up, and still lifted by her voice, singing ....

You’d be so nice to come home to
You’d be so nice by the fire

While that breeze on night sings a lullaby
You’d be all my heart could desire
Under the stars chilled by the winter
Under an August moon shining above

You’d be so nice, you’d be paradise
To come home to and love


Other jazz greats covered this Cole Porter track, of course; Sarah Vaughan in 1958; Chet Baker in the late 50s and then two decades later in his Tokyo concert and Frank Sinatra does a typically lush, but indifferent/sarcastic version, but it is only in Simone's  cover that you hear a kind of elemental menace.

Jo Stafford's rendition from the same year as Simone's recording from Newport in 1960 shows how radical Simone's interpretation was. Whereas all the other versions follow a familiar pattern, Nina Simone ignores all conventions: she starts quiet, there is no big-band swing, only the piano that is backed by the bass and the drums. 

And then those few minutes, after the vocals come in at 3 minutes 20 so intense and unyielding while the piano speeds up, there is no other expression of bliss that comes close.