September 09, 2010
Kellylee Evans
(Plus Loin)
9 septembre 2010
Stanley Péan

"If the majority of tributes to the legends of old which clutter up the shelves of record shops bear witness especially to the disarray of an industry completely resistant to renewal, the newest opus of the Canadian of Jamaican origin comes as a breath of fresh air. More than just flatly aping Nina Simone, Kellylee Evans succeeds in taking just what is necessary from the joyful lyricism from the repertoire of the late Priestess of jazz and soul. From "Ain't Go No" to "Wild is the Wind", passing by "Mood Indigo" to the absolutely required "Feeling Good", her interpretation comes effortlessly, thanks notably to the contributions of guitarist Marvin Sewell (accompanist of Cassandra Wilson), double bassist Francois Moutin and by drummer Andre Ceccarelli.

                39% for the audacity, lyricism, passion and soul in her vocal interpretation
                27% for the strains of blues which were so disturbing, so ethereal
                15% for new arrangements for songs so universally known
                11% for pure sensuality
                8% for the sense of nostalgia for the great Nina

Si la plupart des hommages aux légendes d'antan qui encombrent les bacs des disquaires témoignent surtout du désarroi d'une industrie réfractaire au renouvellement, ce nouvel opus de la Canadienne d'origine jamaïcaine arrive comme une bouffée d'air frais. Plutôt que de singer platement Nina Simone, Kellylee Evans réussit à s'approprier avec juste ce qu'il faut de lyrisme quelques joyaux du répertoire de la regrettée prêtresse du jazz et du soul. De Ain't Go No à Wild Is the Wind, en passant par Mood Indigo et l'incontournable Feeling Good, ses interprétations s'imposent sans peine, grâce notamment aux contributions du guitariste Marvin Sewell (complice de Cassandra Wilson), du contrebassiste François Moutin et du batteur André Ceccarelli.

39 % d'audace, de lyrisme, de passion et de soul dans le rendu vocal
27 % de climats de blues tantôt inquiétants, tantôt éthérés
15 % d'arrangements nouveaux pour des chansons archiconnues
11 % de pure sensualité
8 % de saine nostalgie pour la grande Nina
September 08, 2010
JazzTimes Magazine, September 2010

By Christopher Loudon

Kellylee Evans

Good Girl (ENLIVEN!)

Building upon the strength of her debut release. Fight or Flight?, Kellylee Evans remains in an autobiographical groove. This time around though, the personal sentiments and lessons examined by Evans aren't quite so heavy, focusing less on challenge and hardship and, as she has suggested in several interviews, more on «love, lust and longings». Nor is Good Girl as jazz-focused as its predecessor, with Evans embracing a soulful, urban-pop vibe.

Two essential ingredients are unchanged. Evans' crystalline voice is still stunning, and is actually shown to better advantage against the dense, black-velvet settings she creates for all 12 original tunes. As important, her fierce resolve and gutsy honesty continue to shine through. You can hear those qualities in «Through,» a powerful paean to self-actualization; in the reggae-propelled «Questioning My Path,» a rippling celebration of self-aware empowerment; and in the muscular title track, a strident affirmation that decries the disabling habit of allowing others' opinions to shape one's self-image.

But Evans admits she doesn't have all the answers. She wades into the romantic murkiness of «Lost,» unsure where to turn, and has trouble differentiating real love from fantasy throughout «Is It Love?» Nor does every tune require a weighty message. The scorching «Glad It's You» allows blind passion to override all romantic reservations; «Tonight» is a shimmering slice of potentially careless surrender; and the closing «Stay Awake» is a soft, sweet, metronomic lull into satisfaction.
NINA #7 in France for the second week
September 08, 2010
September 07, 2010

View the article
NINA in the GLOBE and MAIL
September 07, 2010
J.D. Considine

Globe and Mail Update
Published on Monday, Sep. 06, 2010 5:22PM EDT

Last updated on Tuesday, Sep. 07, 2010 10:14AM EDT

.We tend to think of tribute albums as being the work of fans, of musicians whose own identities wouldn't have been fully formed without the influence of a classic artist. But while that's true to some degree of Kellylee Evans's new album, Nina, the young jazz singer's relationship to the music and legend of Nina Simone is complicated, to say the least.

«I really didn't like Nina Simone when I was growing up,» she says, over the phone from her home in Ottawa. «My mom listened to her all the time, but I wanted to listen to Michael Jackson and Blondie and stuff like that. I didn't want to hear any of the stuff my mom had. But I was the one who put on the records, so she'd ask me to go down and put on Nina records.

«Then my husband was in love with Nina Simone,» she says, laughing. «When we were first dating and first married, every Sunday, he'd put her album on and just play it over and over and over again.»

Still, it wasn't until she decided that she wanted to be a jazz singer that Evans listened carefully to Simone's work. «I had never really listened to jazz,» she says, adding that she started learning the music after the girlfriend of her husband's college roommate told her that «jazz was too difficult for me to learn. ...

«I was like, 'Really?' » Evans says. «I took that as a huge challenge.»

With that, she decided to take on jazz singing as a sort of study project. She wrote the name of a different jazz singer on each page of her calendar, and spent each designated month learning everything she could about them. «I would download music, go to the library and get all their CDs, get autobiographies and biographies, and just learn that person's repertoire,» she says.

All that work paid off. In 2004, Evans placed second in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, performing in Washington, before a panel of judges that included Quincy Jones, Al Jarreau, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Flora Purim. But once she started working as a jazz singer, her focus changed.

«I got into songwriting,» she says. «I wanted to put out 100-per-cent originals.»

Still, she liked the notion of paying back what she'd learned from those self-imposed study sessions. «The idea I had was to make a series called Songs That Whoever Taught Me,» she says. «So, in this case, it would have been Songs Nina Taught Me. But it was such a long title, we just ended up going with Nina.»

But what Evans envisioned wasn't a tribute album in the usual sense. Most such projects focus on a performer's best-known work, paying homage through familiarity by calling to mind the songs everyone knows.

«For me, it wasn't about the songs that Nina Simone made popular, or the songs everybody else likes hearing Nina Simone do,» she says. «It was songs that I fell in love with Nina for. So the songs I chose were songs that were important to me.»

As such, Nina avoids such obvious touchstones as To Be Young, Gifted and Black or Mississippi Goddam. Although some of Simone's big hits are included, such as I Loves You Porgy and Ain't Got No/I Got Life, the strongest moments come when Evans emphasizes what she describes as «my own sensibility, where there's this mix of world rhythms and blues and soul. Like Feeling Good and Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, which kind of have more of a Caribbean pulse.»

For Evans, the hardest part of making the album was coming to terms with the fact that she was, frankly, a little intimidated by Simone's personality - even on record. Nina Simone was famously cantankerous onstage and would frequently interrupt her concerts to lecture the audience on politics, culture or music. She was an outspoken advocate for civil rights in the sixties and spent her last years in self-imposed exile in France.

«When I first started listening to her, she kind of scared me,» Evans says. «She was so forthright, with that right-in-your-face ethic. And that really wasn't what I was about. I was very more, 'Oh, you shouldn't say stuff like that.'

«Then she started to grow on me, to the point where I love her now, too, as much as my husband loved her, and as much as my mother loved her. I've really grown up listening to her.»

Evans has even taken in some of the forthrightness that once put her off. «In order to create the kinds of things you want, you need to have a touch of that kind of strength in you,» she says. «I don't know if you need to have all of it, but you need to at least have some of it.»
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