Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Chicago jazz queen Karen Underwood will be playing the diva at Belfast's Black Box

Jazz is enjoying a resurgence in Belfast – so no better time for a Chicago jazz queen to hit town. Karen Underwood grew up in the Windy City – and she'll get all the wind she wants strolling down Royal Avenue on her way to the Black Box.

She came to Ireland in 1997, and like many singing sensations grew up with music all around her.

Her father was a singer and the family would listen to music in the basement of their home.

At parties everyone would take turns singing – Karen's first party piece was What The World Needs Now.

As she grew up she was aware of Nina Simone's hit Young, Gifted and Black – but it wasn't until she heard Night Train at a girlfriend's home that Karen became hooked.

And Out To Lunch audiences will have a chance to hear her perform some of Simone's greatest numbers in her show, Singing Nina.

Karen tells the story – through words and song – of Eunice Kathleen Waymon, the poor Southern daughter who transformed herself into the acclaimed performer Nina Simone.

But there's much more to her than that – Karen tells a story we're less familiar with: that of Simone the mother and the lover, her struggle against racism, and exile from her homeland, to her flamboyant, troubled later life.

All the classic songs are featured: Mississippi Goddamn, Sinnerman, My Baby and I Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl, as Karen is supported by a live band comprised of the cream of Irish musicians.

And her version of Strange Fruit is guaranteed to have shivers running up your spine.

Karen says when she signs it "I'm totally remembering the lynchings that I would have experienced throughout my life, being black and living in America.

"I can talk about being black and I can talk about the bad things that happened to me as a black person. But I don't live my life blaming the world for something that happened a long time ago."

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