This past year, I decided it was time to start something I’ve wanted to do for years—learn to sing. My instructor runs a school for jazz musicians, so we explore singing one jazz song at a time. I study each song in depth, from its musical composition to the nuances of its underlying story. Nuances that a singer can explore and personalize.
One of the first things I do when I learn a new song is put together a playlist of different versions of the same song. I love this exercise! It blows me away how different each interpretation of one song can be.
At the moment, I’m luxuriating in the study of the Cole Porter song “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To”. I found gems from Nancy Wilson, Nina Simone, and the duo of Marisa Anderson and Tara Jane O’Neil.
Nancy Wilson’s version is sultry and seductive. While it seems upbeat, there is a touch of melancholy to it. Nina Simone’s version, from the At Newport album, has nothing upbeat about it. Pure heartbreak and drama. Nina Simone’s husky voice is haunting. It reaches inside me and yanks my heart.
Then there’s the Marisa Anderson and Tara Jane O’Neil’s version. Recorded in 2020, it captures the mournful qualities of the year but wraps it in beauty. Marisa Anderson’s Spanish guitar takes the song to places I didn’t expect, and Tara’s voice surprises me when it comes in late in the song. It’s as haunting as Nina Simone’s version, but Tara Jane O’Neil’s voice is woeful with a hopeful underbelly. So despite the beautifully dark mood of this Spanish guitar version, it leaves me hopeful and ready to take on new challenges.