06 April 2017

Music Under the Radar: Melanie De Biasio

"I'm gonna leave you, yes I'm gonna
I'm gonna leave you  'cause I want to
And I'll go where people love me
And I'll stay there 'cause they love me"

For anyone familiar with the outlines of singer Nina Simone's biography, it would be easy to imagine that she wrote these lyrics but, in fact, they were written by her guitarist who, on the evidence, was a keen observer of the artist who was well on her way to becoming the 'high priestess of soul" by the time they began working together.   An angry, wounded song from the 1960s has recently been given new currency from an unexpected quarter - a Belgian singer and songwriter who knows a good song even when it arrives in arrangement smothered by a Broadway pit orchestra.

Rudy Stevenson, who wrote "I'm Gonna Leave You,"  joined Nina Simone's band in early  1964 while  Simone was recording I Put A Spell On You, her finest studio album for Phillips Records, in New York City.   Stevenson, also a  composer and arranger, wrote a song ("One September Day") and an instrumental number ("Blues On Purpose") for the occasion.  Buried on Simone's next release High Priestess Of Soul was another Stevenson song "I'm Gonna Leave You."  It sounds as though it was recorded in a hurry, without much thought or care, in an  uptempo Broadway-style arrangement.   Simone herself was famous for introducing her own incendiary civil rights anthem "Mississippi Goddam" with the comment, "This is a show tune, but the show hasn't been written for it yet."  Still, the song has presentiments of a more intimate meditation laced with payback than what usually gets belted out across the footlights.

Melanie De Biasio (b.1978) is a Belgian jazz singer who writes many of the songs she sings, so her inclusion of a song recorded by Nina Simone  five decades ago is makes the listener perk up.  De Biasio knew she would not be able to afford much studio time to record the cd No Deal, which she produced herself,  so she spent weeks working out the ambiences she wanted for each track and then recorded them all in three short days.

I'm Gonna Leave You
  Melanie DeBiasio, 2013
I'm Gonna Leave You
  Nina Simone, 1966.

Melanie De Biasio, courtesy Worldwide FM, Gilles Peterson.

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