Me’shell Ndegeocello

When she released her debut, Plantation Lullabies, a few years ago, Me’Shell NdegeOcello attracted plenty of attention. Delivering a potent musical attack combining hip-hop, soul, funk, and jazz–she’s a superb bassist–with provocative lyrics that laced the harsh realities of a black woman’s life with a sensual, drug-tinged ecstasy, NdegeOcello was unlike anyone before her. Her forthcoming Peace Beyond Passion (Maverick) proves that she’s not resting on her laurels. While not without its missteps, the new record ambitiously uses religious imagery and biblical allusion to examine themes common in her music–racism, sexuality, and inner peace. The first single from the record is “Leviticus: Faggot,” a blunt coming-out tale of a young male who receives little support: “‘Cause the man kicked the faggot out of the house at 16 / Amen, and mother let it be.” The album is filled with stories of misunderstanding and a lack of empathy; indeed, NdegeOcello seems to yearn for people to be more compassionate and understanding toward one another. She’s eschewed some of the poetic delivery in favor of straight-up soulful singing, and the rich melange of musical styles continue to frame her dense lyrical imperatives. Among the musicians on the record are jazzers like Joshua Redman, Gene Lake, Bennie Maupin, and David Fiuczynski, along with funk and soul-session masters Wah Wah Watson and Billy Preston. Besides her other abilities, NdegeOcello is a gifted performer. This gig is part of a short tour that precedes the release of the record; she’s also participating in this year’s H.O.R.D.E. tour, which means this small club appearance will be her last in Chicago for a while. Monday, 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 489-3160. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Guzman.