You know it’s been an amazing evening when you leave a show and know in your gut that you’ve just been a part of something pretty special. On the third day of its shortened five-day festival, the National Black Arts Festival breathed a whole lot of life back into its 21-year-old self with Friday night’s “Legends Celebration: Sing the Truth — A Tribute to Nina Simone.”
Four powerful vocalists — Dianne Reeves, Lizz Wright, Lisa Simone Kelly (Simone’s daughter) and Joi Gilliam — did more than pay tribute to Simone, they ushered her spirit back for two wonderful hours at Symphony Hall at the Woodruff Arts Center.
Georgia native Lizz Wright set the night off with ”I Loves You Porgy,” followed by the metaphorical “Old Jim Crow where you been baby / Down Mississippi and back again/ Old Jim Crow don’t you know it’s all over now?” Wright’s deep, robust contralto voice was simply near perfect.
Next up entered Kelly aka “Simone,” with a headwrap and an Afrocentric dress that reminded