Perhaps more original than the quite original Erykah, N’Dambi is arguably the ultimate Neo Soul artist for ’70’s Jazz-Funk fans. As in this rising star’s style is so complex, she’s sort of not even “Neo” Soul. She feels like the real deal from back in the day — from many different, better days. Crossing well into Acid Jazz land, too.
These are The Six Degrees of N’Dambi, based on her superb, essential double-CD set from 2002, Tunin Up & Cosignin…
First Degree: True to the meaning of her name, this Dallas-based diva’s work is “most beautiful.” Her raw emotion and adeptness with classic funk rhythms is as finely tuned as Bilal’s. In fact, in some way, I consider N’Dambi the female answer to Bilal and wish these two would get together in a studio sometime. But where Bilal takes powerful hip-hop turns, N’Dambi masterfully dives into pure jazz, deftly scatting when the mood strikes.
Second Degree: That laid-back sound that put Erykah on the map? N’Dambi has this gift, too. They both exude a talent for breeziness that says, “I’m way too busy telling you what’s up here, pouring out my heart — and having fun doing it — to fret singing within the commercial norm.” N’Dambi doesn’t have a pretentious atom in her voice. Au natural and earthy.
Third Degree: Heavy (and these days rare) use of live studio musicians that jam in the style of Chaka Khan’s killer band, Rufus. However, N’Dambi’s band throws down serious jazz, too. There’s consistently flawless bass work going on, at times reminding me of Ron Carter (the genius behind Badu’s Certainly) or the spirited Marcus Miller. (Check out producer Kenneth Crouch’s bananas bass in Black Star, with it’s Chaka-esqe hook!!!) The musicanship on this double-CD is simply off the chain.
Fourth Degree: N’Dambi sometimes triggers a double-take with her pared down, plain-truth sound, “neo reincarnating” Nina Simone. (Check out Ode 2 Nina and Crazy World.) I’ll even say that her unique way is to purposely venture into tricky pitches at times. And it’s cool as all get-out! Somewhat like Cassandra Wilson, N’Dambi is fearless about doing her own distinctive styling (but alternately a delicate soprano and feisty alto).
Fifth Degree: About that smoking band again… They take to the stratosphere two songs with a jazzy House music beat: Day Dreamer (with it’s fierce, Bar-Kays like groove) and Call Me. In both songs, the singer gets to the bottom of things. In one, getting deep inside your head to get up and get yours in life; in the other, basically asking, like Roberta Flack, Where Is the Love, baby?
Sixth Degree: With all of the above said, N’Dambi sounds precisely like… no one. Which is exactly why we dig her vibe.
I have it on good authority that N’Dambi’s new CD — A Weird Kind of Wonderful — drops very soon! In fact, there may be a CD release party for her long- and eagerly-awaited new set in NYC at S.O.B.’s in October. The artist herself says this to her fans:
“It has taken a good amount of time to get this particular record together. I guess it’s fitting because as I was working on the record, I had to take some time out to work on me. I must say that this particular album is probably the most introspective to date. So, if you thought you knew me, well, you will know me better after listening to this collective. I must say I am the most proud of it.” N’Dambi Blue
For CD release date confirmation and other N’Dambi updates, visit Viqi French Fever – The Hot Nu Music Blog.