Northwest Ohio is in for something special when Grammy-winning R&B and jazz vocalist and songwriter Ledisi Young, better known simply as Ledisi, performs on November 19th with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Alain Trudel, at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Peristyle as part of TSO’s KeyBank Pops series.
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana and raised in Oakland, California, Ledisi has fashioned an accomplished and varied 20-year career. She has released more than 10 albums, recorded numerous stage credits – including workshopping The Color Purple and writing and co-producing her own one-woman show, “The Legend of Little Girl Blue.” She has also appeared in movies and television, including portraying the legendary gospel singer Mahalia Jackson in the 2014 film Selma. Ledisi has been particularly busy over the past couple years, winning her first Grammy in 2021 – a crowning achievement after 14 nominations to date – for the song “Anything For You” from her album The Wild Card. She also launched a record label, Listen Back Entertainment/BMG, and released her latest album: Ledisi Sings Nina. The latter serves as the bedrock for her latest tour, also called Ledisi Sings Nina.
Released in 2021, Ledisi Sings Nina is both a tribute to legendary jazz singer and activist, Nina Simone, and a showcase for Ledisi’s formidable vocal skills. It ranges from the ebullient highs of “I’m Going Back Home” – which trades in Nina’s gospel-tinged backing for an arrangement that draws more on New Orleans-style jazz – to a sparser, but no less heart-wrenching interpretation of “Ne Me Quitte Pas” that drips with the same pain and desperation that made Nina’s rendition of the 1959 Jacques Brel standard so iconic. All the while, Ledisi masterfully balances between paying homage to Simone and making each song unmistakably her own. Because of this, the album feels essential – a virtue not many cover or homage albums can claim – as the depth of Ledisi’s respect for Simone is matched by the strength of her own artistic vision. Whether you’re looking to familiarize yourself with the album prior to seeing Ledisi in Toledo or you’re simply a fan of the genre, Ledisi Sings Nina, available to download or stream on all major platforms, is absolutely worth your attention.
If you’re still on the fence about getting out to see Ledisi, a live-recorded track from Ledisi Sings Nina, “Wild is the Wind,” provides a compelling reason to get excited about her upcoming sojourn to the Peristyle. The song leaves no doubt that she brings every ounce of her crystal clear, expressive vocals from the recording booth to the stage. It’s not very often one gets the chance to experience live an artist of Ledisi’s caliber interpreting the work of an artist as enduring and important as Nina Simone. To put it simply: this show’s not one to miss.
Saturday, November 19 7 p.m. $39-99 Standard, $19.50-49.50 for children and students. Toledo Museum of Art, Peristyle Theater. 2445 Monroe St., (419) 246-8000. https://www.toledosymphony.com/events/2022/11/19/keybank-pops/ledisi-sings-nina-simone/#BuyTickets