Long a fixture in the San Francisco Bay area as a high-quality soulful jazz and blues singer, very much in the tradition of the best vocalists of the 1940s and ‘50s, Kim Nalley is always exciting to hear. She keeps the style alive without copying any of her predecessors, singing vintage songs in her own way while clearly enjoying herself.
Kim Nalley wisely utilizes Houston Person throughout all of I Want A Little Boy rather than having the veteran tenor-saxophonist just make a few guest appearances. In addition, Ms. Nalley is joined by a top-notch quartet comprised of guitarist Barry Finnerty, pianist Tammy Hall, bassist Michael Zisman, and drummer Kent Bryson plus, on the first of two versions of the title cut (which was originally titled “I Want A Little Girl”), she duets with Maria Muldaur.
The emphasis is on bluesy material, often at slow and medium tempos, with an occasional romp included for variety. The wide-ranging program includes many highlights, including the always-rousing Ruth Brown hit “Teardrops From My Eyes,” “I Hadn’t Anyone Till You,” “Pennies From Heaven,” and “Crazy He Calls Me.” There are also a couple of offbeat choices in “Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” (written by Mr. Rogers) and the only popular song penned by a vice president, Charles G. Dawes’ “It’s All In The Game.”
Throughout I Want A Little Boy, Kim Nalley is heard at the peak of her powers, inspired by and inspiring to the great Houston Person. This is an accessible and highly enjoyable set that will be savored by lovers of the classic style. It is highly recommended and available from www.kimnalley.com and www.amazon.com.
Any time you get tenor saxist Houston Person on an album, you’re guaranteed to have some smoke, and with singer Kim Nalley, you get fire as well.
The R&B-toned lady brings her band of Tammy Hall/p, Michael Zisman/b, Kent Bryson/dr and Barry Finnerty/g. Nalley is gloriously sassy as she taps into her inner Ruth Brown for a shuffling “Teardrops In My Eyes” as Person blows grey smoke rings. She’s cozy as well, oozing out the Fred Rogers classic “Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” and swinging out “I Hadn’t Anyone But You” while oozing on “Try A Little Tenderness”. She coaxes Maria Muldaur to come out of her oasis for a fun and raucous read of “I Want A Little Boy” as well. Soft and sweet R&B is served on a blue plate for “It’s All In The Game” and she stretches out on the couch for a longer take of “Boy”. This lady serves ‘em up hot and filling. --George Harris
‘Blues People’: Preach, Kim Nalley
The incomparable Kim Nalley slaps blues into submission with her newest album, Blues People — jam-packed with 14 covers and originals. This is blues the way it was meant to be sung, down to the marrow.
Released on October 16, 2015, Nalley’s Blues People could very well resuscitate the blues out from the doldrums. She leads the revival with her talented musical staff: Tammy Hall on piano and organ, Greg Skaff (guitar), Kent Bryson (drums), Michael Zisman (bass), and Bryan Dyer (background vocals).
There are a lot of amazing covers on this album which the San Francisco-based Nalley blueses up to her emotionally truthful, gritty style. Most astonishing has to be “Movin’ On Up,” the Don Great theme to the 1970s hit TV sitcom, The Jeffersons. She takes a little skip, jump, and a hop blues from that original number and really cuts pieces of her soul out all over it.
“Amazing Grace” is in another class entirely, as Nalley raises up this often-covered gospel anthem to glory. Considering many pretenders to the throne, clasping their pearls and pretending to affect holy inspiration for instant church cred, what Nalley does with all her heart and soul is nothing short of revelatory. Her voice is utter perfection in its perfectly imperfect humanity — cast from the pits of hell as a sinner, reaching out in desperation and hope, not from the pulpit already washed clean by the blood of the lamb.
Nalley isn’t afraid to be as down to earth human as she can be, the image of Mary Magdalene for a world too polished to bow down.
She wrote two amazingly compact blues numbers, “Big Hooded Black Man,” in honor of Trayvon Martin, and “Ferguson Blues,” for Michael Brown — for today’s generation. Her blues in social commentary is full of integrity and vocal power, the origin of this much maligned, diluted genre, the second-rate cousin to jazz.
Kim Nalley has appeared in jazz and blues festivals here and there. She’s even won a few awards in the Bay Area for her amazing grace of a voice alone. But none of that’s enough to describe her transformative power.
She deserves her own star as quite possibly the next Mahalia Jackson. Blues People just might do it for her.
A capacity crowd filled Kuumbwa Jazz Center Saturday night for Race, Class, and Culture through the Lens of Jazz--a special event presented by the UC Santa Cruz Humanities Division, featuring a panel of jazz scholars, followed by an inspired performance by Bay Area jazz singer Kim Nalley. A celebration of UNESCO’s International Jazz Day and UCSC’s annual alumni weekend, the evening began with a conversation about the global historical role of jazz in race, class, and culture, featuring humanities dean Tyler Stovall, history professor Eric Porter and jazz singer/historian Kim Nalley. After the panel, Nalley deftly switched roles from historian to jazz headliner.
No School Like Old School Review of Kim Nalley band featuring Houston Person: Kim Nalley doesn’t traffic in nostalgia. There’s nothing self-consciously retro or affected about her performances. But the San Francisco jazz vocalist embodies a performance ethic that’s almost a lost art. Magisterial and generous, authoritative and playful, she presides over the stage with an in-the-moment familiarity that welcomes listeners into each song.
Four Stars! With her vaunted 3 1/2 octave vocal range San Francisco jazz mainstay Kim Nalley is the musical equivalent of the pitcher with a 102-MPH fastball. While the baseball flamethrower is usually relegated to the closer's role, Nalley brings the heat every moment
Nalley, who has always been known for her stylish interpretations of songs by Billie Holiday and Nina Simone is expanding the songbook herself with her original compositions. Steeped in a variety of jazz and blues idioms, Nalley turns her attention to unsettling recent events on her new album, "Blues People," her sixth and most impressive release. [Nalley's original composition Big Hooded Black Man) Like Mississippi Goddam, a relentless groove and telegraphic lyrics transform a topical spark until a timeless blue-hot flame.
FIVE GREAT REASONS TO FALL IN LOVE WITH KIM NALLEY
She’s as dramatic as La Boheme … She’s Carmen … She’s remarkable … She’s exhilarating and she’s a Cultural touchstone! AND…SHE SANG THE STIRRING “Mississippi Goddamn!” – and when she sings it – she means it. Also loved “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair” – Nalley sang many “Bite your Ass” songs during the evening – but since you will see a different show each night, I won’t mention them all, because you may not hear the same songs that I heard. Different set each night keeps the show fresh for everyone. And that’s the way I like it.
There are songs that seem dark and sad. And then there are the songs that express great love and joy. When you listen to Kim Nalley singing the music of Nina Simone – you’re not only listening, but also are mesmerized. Yes, Nalley may be using ‘witchcraft’ on us. She is simply unlike any artist that I’ve ever heard.
Nalley is at the Rrazz Room for several weeks. She tells the audience: be sure and come back because each night will be a different show with different songs. I looked at the “Set List of songs” and there were over 45 listed. Nalley picks and chooses what she wants to sing each evening. Most of her pieces are from different eras. Most songs that I heard were good blues. Nalley shares the stage with the Band and the Piano Player. They are wonderfully versatile. They are: Tammy Hall, piano – Greg Skaff, guitar – Kent Bryson, drums, Michael Zisman, bass. You can’t get anymore fantastic than them.
This was an evening stacked with exciting music. If you don’t know Nina Simone – then this is the best way to learn about her and her fantastic range of styles. It’s sultry and impeccable
Music that comes straight -- from the soul. And the Soul in this case is Kim Nalley, with a voice that is truly out of the ordinary range. And yes, she is sexy too.
NPR CALIFORNIA REPORT
Top 10 album of the year.
BLUES ACCESS MAGAZINE
"GOD, CAN THIS WOMAN SING! It's as if a vocalist from the great post-war blues and jazz combos had been transported to the end of the century." Blues Access Magazine
Powerhouse vocalist Kim Nalley rocked the house with vintage blues, provocative jazz singing, and the considerable aid of lauded saxophonist James Carter, who contributed signature squeaking and squawking touches.
Vocalist Kim Nalley sings with a vengeance on this collection of songs that touch on many of the various aspects of the blues. The team of Tammy Hall/p-org, Greg Skaff/g, Michael Zisman/b, Kent Bryson/dr and Bryan Dyer/voc is mixed and matched on songs that are going to rattle your previous reference points of songs you’re familiar with. She teams with Hall and a wildly free and passionate “Summertime” and then goes to the TV them from The Jefferson’s for a swaying gospel read of “Movin’ On Up.” She gets into an R&B groove on “Big Hooded Black Man” with Hall’s B3, and with the piano trio pleads with vulnerability on “Sunday Kind of Love.” She gets p reachy with Zisman’s bass on the funky “Listen Here/Cold Duck/Compared To What” and goes to the marrow of the black church on a testifying “Amazing Grace.” She grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go for these 14 tunes. You aren’t going to forget this one!
The Songbird of San Francisco Local Jazz legend a true San Francisco Story. The singer struggled to find the right outlet for her three-and-a-half octave range and aptitude for everything from gritty blues to operatic arias, ut it wasn’t until Nalley relocated to SF that she began to establish herself as a unique talent