Pianist, songwriter and singer Nina Simone largely did it her way. Her deep voice and loose vibrato challenged notions of what a jazz singer should sound like. Her civil rights ballads were provocative, angry and uncompromising during a time when jazz and musical theater was largely apolitical. And she had classical chops and a gift for songwriting during a period when the Songbook was still dominated (as it still is today) by white male writers. If she wasn't perfect -- her on-stage haughtiness and struggle with bi-polar disorder both compromised her career -- she still did it all with panache and an individual style, and she loosened up in her later years, although retrospectives largely waited until after her death in 2003.
Pauline Jean, who will perform a tribute to Nina Simone at The Cabaret at the Connoisseur Room, doesn't play piano, but reviews suggest that she emulates Simone in other ways, sharing a low voice and wearing her hair in a braided up-do. Jean will perform with percussionist Leopoldo Fleming, who toured with Simone and recently-departed South African vocalist Miriam Makeba. Shows are July 24 at 7:30 p.m. and July 25 at 6 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $30-$40 each, available online at www.brownpapertickets.com or by phone at 317-294-7005. More info at www.thecabaret.org.