A trip with Leslie Vincent

Jim Lundstrom

We get a lot of press releases at Reader headquarters, but I was particularly struck by one announcing the Feb. 10 appearance of Twin Cities jazz singer/songwriter Leslie Vincent, joining fellow vocalist Jennifer Grimm in An Evening of Jazz, R&B and Pop at Sacred Heart Music Center.

The release stated that Vincent had recently released her sophomore album, About Last Night, which, it said, mixes “the lyrical sensitivity of Madeleine Peyroux with the powerhouse vocals of Amy Winehouse...”

OK, interesting, I thought. I like those two, but can’t quite put them together in my head.

The PR sheet goes on to say Vincent got her start in musical theater, but “has made her mark as an innovative interpreter of the Great American Songbook as well as material from her pop heroes Carole King, Linda Ronstadt, Dusty Springfield and Grace Slick.” I’m all in for all of that.

The release goes on to mention how her influences come together on the album that includes jazz standards (a great version of “Black Coffee”), Broadway numbers (“If I Were a Bell” from Guys and Dolls) and, one of my favorite’s, Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do” from his 1923 Music Box Revue), and a couple of contemporary numbers.

As you might expect, the press release goes on to exclaim that “The standouts, though, are her own originals, bringing a contemporary perspective to classic jazz sounds.”

It then mentions she kicks things off with her own tune  “Psychedelics with You.”

Did I read that right? Psychedelics?

I decided I could wait no longer to her what Leslie Vincent is all about. Wow! What a great way to kick things off. And I immediately get the Peroux/Winehouse comparison. I read in an interview that she first composed the “Psychedelic” song on ukulele, but here she has a crackerjack band with pianist Ted Godbout, bassist Matt McIntyre, drummer Ben Ehrlich and trumpet player Mitch Van Laar.

She follows the upbeat opener with a lovely version of “What’ll I Do” that starts out slow and minimalistic, and then easily shifts into high gear.  

“Icetown Blues” is the only other Vincent-penned tune on the album, which she wrote ostensibly about living in Minneapolis. Then there is this quote in the release: “Obviously it’s an ode to our neverending winter,” Vincent says. “But it’s also a love song to my wife. Before I met her I was scared of opening up and terrified of commitment. I wanted to combine the idea of my own personal thaw to the melting of winter.”    

Leslie Vincent performs Friday, Feb. 9,  at the Rathskeller, 6-8 pm, and Saturday, Feb. 10, 7 pm, with Jennifer Grimm in  An Evening of Jazz, R&B and Pop at Sacred Heart Music Center.