Meshell Ndegeocello, a 10-time Grammy-nominated singer-bassist-songwriter, puts her muse before her paycheck.
An artist who doesn’t consider genre, Ndegeocello moves freely between jazz, rock, soul, funk and reggae. Her sold-out Friday show at the Contemporary Arts Center will be her first local appearance since before Hurricane Katrina.
Hip-hop is another of Ndegeocello’s genres, but her vocal performances derive more from the late jazz poet Gil Scott-Heron than the decades of rap and hip-hop music that followed him.
“I say this jokingly, but it’s true,” she said: “There are only 12 notes, but the music is always the same. I just try to create different atmospheres for each song.”
Washington, D.C., where Ndegeocello grew up, and New York, the place she moved to at 19, are both multicultural cities containing all kinds of people and music.
In D.C., Ndegeocello enjoyed the post-hardcore band Fugazi, African-American punk band Bad Brains, the frequently visiting Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Afro-Cuban music scene and that locally born blend of Latin and funk, go-go music.
Ndegeocello saw the late godfather of go-go, singer-guitarist Chuck Brown, and his Soul Searchers band perform for years.
“He was a really lovely, soulful man,” she said. “Go-go initiated me into the idea of groove.”
Ndegeocello also patronized D.C.’s downtown rock venue, the 9:30 Club.
“All bands and all genres always go through D.C.,” she said from her home in Brooklyn. “It’s an international, tiny, weird place where everything exists. It’s a musical soapbox where you can expound upon many ideas.”
While living in D.C., Ndegeocello and her friends also made the short drive to Baltimore to hear trance and house music.
“I listened to different music because I had different kinds of friends,” she said.
Ndegeocello’s versatility is all over her 11th album, “Comet, Come To Me.” It features her longtime collaborators Chris Bruce on guitar and Jebin Bruni on keyboards, both of whom will perform with Ndegeocello in New Orleans. Drummer Abraham Rounds is joining them on tour.
“Comet, Come To Me” encompasses the David Bowie meets rap sound of “Friends,” the old-school soul of “Tom” and the moody ’80s indie pop-rock of “Continuous Performance.”
Even though “Comet, Come To Me,” released in June, is Ndegeocello’s new album, she doesn’t necessarily play it in concert. She will play some Nina Simone material from her 2012 Simone tribute album, “Pour une Ame Souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone.”
“It’s an ever-changing set,” Ndegeocello said. “We try to create a set that’s not about promotion, that just gives you a well-rounded evening.”
In her own listening for pleasure, Ndegeocello continues to roam far and wide.
“I can listen to Erik Satie and then the Smiths and then James Brown and feel totally in sync. They’re all the most unusual men but there’s some thread there that unites them for me. It’s all about the listener and the experience you try to have.”