TRAVERSE CITY — New York jazz vocalist Carolyn Leonhart swings into West Michigan this weekend for evening shows at Traverse City’s Milliken Auditorium and Ludington’s Area Center for the Arts and afternoon workshops with area student jazz musicians in both cities.
Leonhart will perform tonight in Ludington at a 7:30 p.m. concert as part of the 2012-13 West Shore Community College Performing Arts Series. Her Saturday concert at the Dennos Museum Center’s Milliken Auditorium starts at 8 p.m.
Leonhart grew up in a jazz family. She is the daughter of jazz bassist Jay and singer Donna (Zier) Leonhart. Her brother, Michael, is a jazz trumpet player. She currently teaches at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and is married to jazz saxophonist Wayne Escoffery.
She said she used to get annoyed as a 16-year-old when her father changed keys on her as she sat in and sang with his band at New York’s fabled Blue Note jazz club. Now 42, she knows how lucky she was to have those experiences.
“He was testing me,” she said. “You had to know what you were doing or get off the stage.”
She said she enjoys many different styles of music and all have influenced how she views jazz, her first love.
“To me, jazz is a deep commitment to an ever-changing path of creativity that constantly challenges you to explore new roads,” she said.
Leonhart has performed as a back-up vocalist for Steely Dan on three world tours. She is a regular singer at the Jazz Standard and Smoke Jazz Club and has sung in many of New York City’s other jazz clubs and around the country. Her voice has been described by reviewers as intimate, soulful and versatile, with “a timbre comparable to a young Ella Fitzgerald.”