BMG is continuing to celebrate the legacy of late trailblazer Nina Simone with an upcoming reissue of her 1959 debut album for Bethlehem Records, Little Girl Blue. The remastered stereo album will arrive on CD, LP, and digital services on August 13.
Though it didn’t see release until February 1959, Little Girl Blue – so named for the Rodgers and Hart standard introduced in their Broadway musical Jumbo – was actually recorded in one session near the end of 1957. Although Simone was relatively new to performing and not yet 25 years old, she took to the studio with command, intensity and passion.
If the repertoire on Little Girl Blue was, for the most part, reflective of the typical jazz songbook of the day, Simone’s treatment of it was anything but standard. The singer-pianist, born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in North Carolina, spellbound audiences by bringing classical influences to jazz and popular standards. She also imbued these sophisticated Great American Songbook works with the earthiness and intensity of the blues, and the fervor of gospel. She demanded creative control from the start, a testament to her clear sense of self from the very beginning. Her small but significant trove of recordings for Bethlehem – just this album and three more tracks – were intimate: either solo piano or in a trio with Jimmy Bond on bass and Albert “Tootie” Heath on drums. In any setting, though, her voice – unmistakably smoky, husky, and piercing in its quest for the emotional truth – was the star.
On Little Girl Blue, Simone made a pair of songs closely associated with another impeccable stylist, Peggy Lee, her own (the torch lament “He Needs Me” and steamy “Don’t Smoke in Bed”) – no small feat in and of itself. She brought cool insouciance to a shuffling “My Baby Cares Just for Me” which would gain a new life in the 1980s when it was used in a Chanel No. 5 commercial; a subsequent video was played in heavy rotation on MTV. Little Girl Blue also featured her quietly intense rendition of George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward’s “I Loves You, Porgy.” The aria from Porgy and Bess would become one of Simone’s signature songs and her only top 20 hit. But virtually every track on the album is a classic, from her dark, brooding reinvention of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to her seemingly effortless reading of Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo.” Simone contributed one original composition, the instrumental “Central Park Blues.”
BMG’s reissue has been produced by Omnivore Recordings’ Cheryl Pawelski and features new liner notes by author-historian Daphne A. Brooks. The rollout of the release began yesterday – the start of African-American Music Appreciation Month – with a digital release of the audio as remastered by Michael Graves. It’s available in both high-resolution and standard download/streaming audio. Then, on July 16, a clear blue 180-gram vinyl pressing will be released exclusively at Barnes & Noble locations and online. Finally, on August 13, the CD and 180-gram black vinyl pressings will be out everywhere. Kevin Gray has cut the vinyl.
Look for the remastered stereo Little Girl Blue at the links below!
Nina Simone, Little Girl Blue (Bethlehem BS 6028, 1959 – reissued BMG, 2021)
- Mood Indigo
- Don’t Smoke in Bed
- He Needs Me
- Little Girl Blue
- Love Me or Leave Me
- My Baby Cares Just for Me
- Good Bait
- Plain Gold Ring
- You’ll Never Walk Alone
- I Loves You, Porgy
- Central Park Blues