Catch his performance in Asbury Park
with Who Dat Live Crew
Friday, October 27 at The Break
Alexander Simone was born from spirit. The spirit of two legendary grandmothers. One known as the High Priestess of Soul and one, the spiritual leader of more than 80 churches in the Church of God in Christ tradition. These two pillars of spirit, music and strength spawned the music and creativity of one Alexander Simone.
His very first musical influences came from his grandmother’s church, where he played piano, organ and sang. By his teens he was writing music and directing the choir in said church. Even though he made the basketball team, practices took a backseat to his church duties.
“My grandmother didn’t care about none of that,” he remembers with a laugh. “She cared about having music in her church.” And, of course, he helped provide that and ended up traveling around the tri-state area, playing at many churches.
Simone knows to whom much is given, much is required. Being the grandson of Nina Simone, singer, songwriter and pianist extraordinaire and the son of singer and actress Lisa Simone, who continues to sing her own songs and her late mother’s, from her home in the south of France. His joy is filling that requirement by working with young musicians and particularly children. In reality, A. Simone wants to make music with “all types of folks” and he’s finding he can do that right here in Asbury Park.
He has no children of his own and considers the children of the community his, because he vows he will help raise those children. “The babies are the future so we’ve got to teach the babies now,” Simone says. So he spends time mentoring and teaching students at Lakehouse Music Academy here in Asbury Park, where he is on the board of directors and his vision is big.
“See, big concerts that happen here should always have local acts to open the show because we have that talent here. And I’m working to create those possibilities,” says the multi-talented singer and musician.
Simone says he’s working on all types of projects in Asbury Park (including a recent performance at Porchfest) driven by his love of music and his desire to bring people together to share in that. Of course, there’s the music he makes with his band, Whodat? Live Crew. Last month they rocked the stage at the “See Hear Now Festival” right here in Asbury. In September they headed for the At One Fest in Atlanta, and October will see them moving into a residency at the World Cafe in Philadelphia.
But they’ll be back, in part because Asbury is home base, and because there are projects just simmering, waiting for the heat to be turned up. One of those waiting to come to a full boil is “Q and A”, a project of local songstress Quintessence and A. Simone. Volume One is complete and Volume Two is waiting in the wings. The pair is revisiting duets, something Simone acknowledges younger folk probably don’t know anything about. But he surely does, as he quickly rattles off the names of several pairs, like Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell, Peaches and Herb, and Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway.
And since both singers have extensive backgrounds, particularly in gospel (in her younger days Quintessence was a member of Youth United for Christ) there may be a number of surprises coming our way.
Simone also has plans of creating a choir. The goal of everything he does is to make people feel good. Simone says what always kept him drawn to music was the way it made him feel. “Whether it was Motown, Nat King Cole, Donny Hathaway, Robert Glass or what was in church, I was a sponge. I listened to a wide variety of music, and it was all about connecting passion and spirit,” he says.
He is always looking to connect. “When I do my events, I don’t just bring myself and my band. I want to give other people that opportunity too. If there are opportunities for scholarships for our kids, I want to see how I can help that happen,” he says.
A man of faith. A man who knows he stands on the shoulders of two powerful Black women and daily uses the gifts they gave him: Passion, Spirit and Music. And the words of Nina Simone which seem very much about who he is: I choose to reflect the times. How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?