Ten-time Grammy nominee Meshell Ndegeocello didn’t have to look far to find inspiration for the theme of her Bowery Ballroom concert on Friday night: It was right outside her door on the streets of Brooklyn.
The versatile singer-bassist, who lives in Carroll Gardens, will celebrate the borough in the last of her four shows as the artist-in-residence at this year’s Winter Jazzfest. “I’m doing all this music from people from Brooklyn,” says Ndegeocello, 50, who grew up in Washington, DC, but has lived in Brooklyn for about 10 years. “We’re doing a [Barbra] Streisand song, we’re doing a Neil Diamond song, an ODB [Ol’ Dirty Bastard] track, Pat Benatar. Once I started going online and seeing how many great artists come from here, I just was like, ‘Yes, this is a great idea!’ ”
Ndegeocello, who will have musicians such as guitarist Jeff Parker and trumpeter Graham Haynes sitting in with her at Bowery Ballroom, originally wanted to hold the show in Brooklyn, at Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Steel. “This is fertile ground for creative people,” she says of her adopted hometown. “People are constantly making things, whether it’s music, art, food, clothing. Here is for people who have ideas.”
Certainly, Ndegeocello has had no shortage of ideas for this year’s Winter Jazzfest. One of her shows paid homage to writer James Baldwin, while another re-imagined the music of her late idol, Prince.
“It’s our way of, I guess, eulogizing this artist that I love,” says Ndegeocello of the Prince tribute, which she hopes to continue performing in the future. “I mean, he’s the reason I play music. Hearing his first record [1978’s ‘For You’] changed my life. It’s what told me this is what I wanna do with my life . . . I’m just trying to be like him.”
Ndegeocello puts a dreamy spin on Prince’s “Sometimes It Snows in April” on her latest album, “Ventriloquism,” a collection of ’80s R&B covers. She arrived at the concept for the LP — on which she radically reinvents such classics as Sade’s “Smooth Operator” and George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” — during a difficult period about 2 ¹/₂ years ago when her father, saxophonist Jacques Johnson, passed away.
“I would go to my parents’ house, and my mother’s car radio only played the oldies station,” says Ndegeocello. “So I just was listening to all the songs I grew up with. I’d be awash in memories . . . Those are all the songs I would listen to at my parents’ house to make me feel better.”
Now “Ventriloquism” has given Ndegeocello a boost with her 10th Grammy nomination — 25 years after her debut album, “Plantation Lullabies.” She’s up for Best Urban Contemporary Album next month against the likes of the Carters (Beyoncé and Jay-Z), Miguel and Chloe x Halle. “I think Chloe x Halle should win, hands down,” she says.
Although she calls herself “the Susan Lucci” of the Grammys for not having won one yet after all of her nominations, Ndegeocello is happy just to attend the Feb. 10 awards: “I’ma get a fly outfit, braid my hair, bring my camera, see what famous people I can meet, and then go party and have a good time.”