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Bard Fisher Center Presents Meshell Ndegeocello

Performing Music from Her Acclaimed Album Ventriloquism, Songs That Redefined Black Pop and R&B of the ’80s and ‘90s
 

Eleanor Davis
845-758-7512
edavis@bard.edu
10-10-2018
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.— Lush, subversive, and sublime, the music of Meshell Ndegeocello sparked a new movement in soul music and has earned her 10 Grammy nominations over her astounding career. With the release of her new album, Ventriloquism, Ndegeocello tackles covers of songs by artists who redefined black pop and R&B in the ’80s and ’90s—such as Prince, Janet Jackson, TLC, Tina Turner, and more—offering a fresh perspective and musical refuge during these uncertain times. Ndegeocello performs in the Fisher Center’s Sosnoff Theater on Saturday, October 20 at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $25 and are available at fishercenter.bard.edu, or by calling the box office at 845-758-7900.

Ventriloquism has the hallmarks of all of Ndegeocello’s work. She pays tribute to her diverse influences and in these 11 covers, we hear them layered over one another. Ndegeocello filters “Tender Love” through a folky, Californian filter and brings Vaudevillian accents to “Sensitivity.” The reimagining affords not just a new musical experience but also a comment on the narrow expectations of sounds and structures for black artists and black music.

“Early on in my career, I was told to make the same kind of album again and again, and when I didn’t do that, I lost support,” says Ndegeocello. “There isn’t much diversity within genres, which are ghettoizing themselves, and I liked the idea of turning hits I loved into something even just a little less familiar or formulaic. It was an opportunity to pay a new kind of tribute.”
This album was recorded in Los Angeles with the family of partners and players that Ndegeocello has worked with for years. Chris Bruce plays guitar, Abraham Rounds is on drums, Jebin Bruni coproduced the album and plays keys. These three musicians join her live for the Fisher Center concert. Lasting and collaborative relationships with her fellow musicians is among the most important parts of music making for the artist, prompting her to say on more than one occasion: “Meshell Ndegeocello is a band.”

Some tracks were selected for their reflections. The album opens with “I Wonder If I Take You Home,” which marked the early influence of Prince and hip-hop on commercial pop, and was a reference for Ndegeocello’s own “If That’s Your Boyfriend.” Constantly asked to be “funky,” she includes “Atomic Dog” as a reminder that the heart of funk is ineffable and irreverent, not just acted in showy flourishes, slaps, or noodling. Other songs offered an outlet for plain emotional truths: “Waterfalls” was stripped down and delivered as an honest, personal lament. “Sometimes It Snows in April” has an extended intro, an accidental result of the band’s desire to delay the new and inevitable sadness of the song. “Funny How Time Flies” approaches sarcasm in its ominous and lonely sounds, exemplifying how these times—personally for Ndegeocello, politically for many—are neither flying nor funny.

“The year around the recording of this album was so disorienting and dispiriting for me personally and for so many people I know and spoke to all the time. I looked for a way to make something that was light while things around me were so dark, a musical place to go that reminded me of another, brighter time, “she says.

A portion of the profits from this album will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union.

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This event was last updated on 10-10-2018