Nikka Costa sings pop and soul standards with an orchestral treatment | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Nikka Costa sings pop and soul standards with an orchestral treatment 

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click to enlarge Nikka Costa

Nikka Costa

Matthew Welch

Nikka Costa, daughter of celebrated arranger/producer Don Costa (and goddaughter of Frank Sinatra) had a minor buzz going in the 2000s with a couple of albums on the Virgin label: Everybody Got Their Something and Can’tneverdidnothin’. This was when the whole neosoul genre was coming on hard and heavy; those two albums, with their nods to 70s funk and mild hip-hop feel, were textbook examples of that style. By 2008, she’d switched to the revived Stax label and released a new record, Pebble to a Pearl, that featured the Daptones as her backup band and, perhaps predictably, leaned toward a 60s soul feel. Nearly a decade later, Costa’s most recent long-player, 2017’s Nikka & Strings Underneath and In Between, sounds like an answered prayer for those who wish Adele would cut a back-to-basics traditional soul record. Working with a full-on string section brings out her torchy tendencies, but she knows how to reel it in before she starts to sound too middle-of-the-road. About half of the tracks are versions of well-traveled standards such as “Stormy Weather,” “Nothing Compares 2 U,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” and a cover of “Ain’t That Peculiar,” which is slowed down considerably from Marvin Gaye’s 1966 hit. The strings are used tastefully throughout the album, usually swelling in the background rather than soaring into the skies.   v

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