Jazz vocalist to perform at art center

March 21, 2013

5cdf55783dc3bea60be968bb915e7VICTORY TWP. — New York City jazz vocalist Carolyn Leonhart swings into West Michigan on Friday, April 5, for a 7:30 p.m. concert at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts.  The concert is part of the 2012-13 West Shore Community College Performing Arts Series.

Carolyn Leonhart is a jazz singer, daughter of noted jazz bassist Jay Leonhart and sister of the trumpeter Michael Leonhart. She has performed as a back-up vocalist for Steely Dan on several tours and recordings, and is heard in all of the great jazz clubs in New York City and around the country.

“Most jazz musicians in this day come up through the conservatory or music school route, where that talent is fostered in the safe environs of a classroom,” says Ted Malt, WSCC Associate Professor of Music.  She went a different route, he adds.

Leonhart grew up in a house filled with music. By the time she was a voice major at the famed LaGuardia High School for Music and the Arts, she was spending her days as a featured vocalist in their award-winning gospel choir and her evenings working on jazz standards with her father and her brother.

“I was very lucky I was born into jazz,” Leonhart says. “There was practically a rhythm section in my house at all times. All I had to do was sing. I could just ask them to play something and they could do it.”

Her voice quickly impressed many people, but her father was the toughest nut to crack. Leonhart recalls sitting in with her dad at the fabled Blue Note jazz club when she was 16. “He would start changing keys while I was singing just for the hell of it, forcing me to follow him,” Leonhart recalls, now laughing about it. “I was completely annoyed at the time, but later on I realized how lucky I was to have had that kind of experience. He was testing me. You had to know what you were doing, or get off stage.”

Leonhart will also be presenting a workshop/master class for area vocalists during the day on Friday while in residence at WSCC.

 “Carolyn loves sharing her knowledge and wide range of experience in the music industry with students,” says WSCC director of the Performing Arts Series, Dr. Rick Plummer.

Carolyn is a graduate of Contemporary Commercial Vocal Pedagogy Institute at Shenandoah University, and works closely with Master Teacher Jeanette LoVetri, founder of The Voice Workshop in NYC.

In addition to teaching privately in New York City, Carolyn is an assistant professor at Berklee School of Music in Boston, teaching vocal technique and performance for students of jazz, R & B, and pop on a part-time basis.

She frequently travels with her solo projects, and she is available for clinics and master classes throughout the United States and Europe.

Carolyn’s intimate and soulful voice has a broad tonal palette, rich textures and pure musicality and has been recognized countless times over the years. She has won awards such as “Downbeat Magazine’s” Best College Jazz Vocalist as well as third place in the Thelonious Monk International Vocal Jazz Competition.

 Her voice also reflects the quality of the musicians she’s played with, which has happened most notably in the band “Steely Dan” where she has been the lead back-up vocalist for three world tours, two albums, including the multi-Grammy award winning “Two Against Nature,” and is featured on Everything Must Go’s “Pixeleen.”

Carolyn has versatility that many singers can only dream of, but her first love has always been jazz. In 2000, she released her critically acclaimed debut, “Steal the Moon” (Sunnyside). “Since recording ‘Steal the Moon,’ I’ve been listening to instrumentalists more than singers,” she says. “I’ve started to thinking more as an arranger and composer, rather than just a singer.”

The past few years have allowed her to develop her own group sound. She has been performing regularly with her jazz group and started the Sunday Vocalist Series at Smoke Jazz Club. She has been a guest vocalist on several instrumentalists’ albums, a featured guest with house rhythm sections in clubs and festivals throughout the country, and in July 2003, was on the cover of the “Jazziz Magazine’s” women’s issue, spotlighting notable up-and-coming singers.

Carolyn has also been working with the Switzerland- based pop/lounge group “Lyn Leon” as lead vocalist and co-writer. Their CD, “Glass Lounge,” was released in Germany in 2004, and in late fall the band toured Europe with Al Jarreau, who brought Carolyn on stage every night for a duet.

“I love so many different styles of music, and they have all influenced how I view jazz. To me, jazz is a deep commitment to an ever-changing path of creativity that constantly challenges you to explore new roads.”

Carolyn’s new level of expression can be heard on her new CD, “New 8th Day,” which features Leonhart and her working band husband Wayne Escoffery on tenor saxophone, pianist Rick Germanson on piano, bassist Hans Glawischnig, and drummers Donald Edwards and Jason Brown. “’New 8th Day’ is a collection of songs I’ve written or rediscovered, based on their lyrics. But it really represents a new beginning for me, because I am finally starting to bring all of my musical experiences together to create music that is wholly representative of me.”

Malt says that Leonhart is one of those rare singers who thinks like a musician and is able to push herself just as instrumentalists do.  He adds, “Carolyn Leonhart stands out in the crowded field of jazz vocalists, and area music lovers, students of music, especially of voice and jazz, will not want to miss this exciting workshop/master class and concert.”

This professional touring production featuring Carolyn Leonhart is part the popular and award-winning Arts and Creativity program from the Wharton Center at Michigan State University.

Tickets for the concert may be reserved by calling the WSCC box office at 843-5507.  For additional information about the workshop/master class or the concert, call Plummer at 843-5928 or email him at rjplumer@westshore.edu.

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