Jazz releases

GEORGIE FAME | Poet in New York NINA SIMONE | Nina Simone's Finest Hour VARIOUS ARTISTS | Kwaito - South African Hip-Hop
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GEORGIE FAME | Poet in New York (Go Jazz)

GEORGIE FAME | Poet in New York (Go Jazz)

Perhaps because he's so much with us, it's easy to forget just how great Georgie Fame is. He sings like a bleary-eyed angel, plays a pleasingly spare piano or Hammond organ, and has an ear for a good tune that was evident as early as his first album in 1964, when he covered songs by Marvin Gaye, King Pleasure, Mose Allison and Mongo Santamaria (the still hip Yeh Yeh). This recording mixes standards by the likes of Rodgers and Hart, the Gershwins and Billy Strayhorn (a great "Lush Life") with Fame's own adaptations of bop tunes by Tadd Dameron. It's all good, and the backing by a small group of New York players, including the drummer Louis Hayes (who played on Kind of Blue by Miles Davis), is quite exemplary. A sly vocal duet with Ben Sidran on "Girl Talk" is a real treasure.

NINA SIMONE | Nina Simone's Finest Hour (Verve)

If you need edited highlights from the notoriously uneven recording career of La Simone, this mid-price compendium could well be what you're looking for. Although it misses material from the astonishing debut album on Bethlehem (which remains the one Simone album no one should be without), "Little Girl Blue" and "Don't Smoke in Bed" are here in later live versions, and the mid-1960s recordings of "I Put a Spell On You", "Mississippi Goddam", and the still incredible-sounding "The Other Woman" remind you of how great Simone once was, both as a singer, a pianist, and a kind of cultural thermometer of the times. Other titles in the series include Stan Getz, Oscar Peterson and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

VARIOUS ARTISTS | Kwaito - South African Hip-Hop (Stern's/Earthworks)

Although contemporary South Africa might be fruitful ground for gangsta rap - they've certainly got enough gangsters - this excellent album's title turns out to be a mite misleading. Kwaito is South Africa's new pop, a cross-generic dance music closer to house than hip-hop, with elements of ragga and trance in there too. It's not remotely "primitive" either, as our ethnocentric sensibilities might lead us to assume from a world music album, although the drum machine is possibly last year's model. Tribal-language lyrics are chanted against electronic beats and sampled loops, and artists include famous diva Brenda Fassie, Arthur, Aba Shante and M'Du. It's great stuff, and if it was playing in a bar, you'd ask what you were listening to; if overheard in a record shop, you'd probably buy it.

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