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
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
"Kim Nalley is a vocal powerhouse with pipes to burn and works the stage like she means it." San Francisco Chronicle
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
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!