Badly needing a pause that refreshes, we went to see Connie Evingson perform with the Travis Anderson Trio at the Dakota Jazz Club in downtown Minneapolis this past Thursday night. Connie is a Minnesota native who was born in Hibbing (Bob Dylan’s hometown). She now lives in Minneapolis. She performs frequently around town and elsewhere, such as Lincoln Center. We absolutely love her.
As usual, Connie delivered what we came for on Thursday evening even if she threw in a joke about making the Great American Songbook great again. I want to take the liberty this morning of posting one song from each of her three most recent recordings as a brief escape for readers seeking one (I’m talking about you, Jay Comeau). If it persuades you that you might enjoy exploring her work, so much the better.
In addition to a jazz oriented vocalist of surpassing artistry Connie is something of an entrepreneur. She produces recordings on her own label. She has laid the discs out in chronological order here. Each one is something special.
In 2008 Connie released Little Did I Dream, her collection of Dave Frishberg songs. Dave is a St. Paul native who made a name for himself as a brilliant songwriter and player in New York City. Dave came back to town to play for Connie on the recording. Although a lot of great singers have recorded these songs, I think Connie’s collection stands on its own as a permanent contribution. The video below give us Connie’s version “Peel Me A Grape.”
Sweet Happy Life may be my favorite of Connie’s recordings. On it she collected songs with lyrics by Norman Gimbel. Who, you may ask, is Norman Gimbel? Having written the lyrics to “The Girl From Ipanema,” “Killing Me Softly With His Song” and many other hits, he may be the most successful lyricist you’ve never heard of. His specialty was putting English lyrics to the bossa nova tunes that swept the country in the 1960’s. One such is “Agua de Beber” (music by Antonio Carlos Jobim, video below). Leading off the disc, it’s mood altering without pharmacological assistance.
How did Connie get the idea to record a set of songs with lyrics by Norman Gimbel? She says she applied a rule of three. In a period of a couple of months three songs with lyrics by Gimbel caught her ears: “Sway,” “Sweet Happy Life,” and “So Nice.” She explains: “When I looked further into the catalog, I was struck by the number of great songs for which he’d written lyrics — it was like discovering gold.”
Gimbel approved. He commented on the recording: “I’m flattered and grateful for such a tasteful compilation of my songs. Connie Evingson is a wonderful singer and has given bossa nova and me a marvelous gift.”
John Jorgenson is a brilliant musician whom I first heard playing lead guitar in Chris Hillman’s Desert Rose Band in the 1980’s. We saw him most recently this year leading a bluegrass group at the Dakota. A few years ago Connie saw him playing gypsy jazz music in his own John Jorgenson Quintet and resolved to record an album with them. She made it come to pass with All the Cats Join In, her most recent recording. In the video below they perform “World Without Love” gypsy jazz style. It gives new life to an old song by a fellow named McCartney that was first made famous by Peter Asher and Gordon Waller.