When Carmen Lundy performed in Milan last year, it wasn’t at La Scala, the venue where she might once have hoped to sing. But opera’s loss has been jazz music’s gain.
And, this weekend, ours.
Lundy, a celebrated jazz vocalist and composer, will be at Baton Rouge’s Manship Theatre Friday night and New Orleans’ Snug Harbor on Saturday. It’s her first Baton Rouge visit. She performed in New Orleans twice in the 1990s.
Lundy grew up hearing her mother perform gospel music, and she entered the University of Miami as an opera performance major.
A pianist there, David Roitstein, turned her on to jazz, and she never looked back. She continued classical vocal studies by day and performed jazz by night in Miami nightclubs. That began a career that connected Lundy with jazz greats around the world.
Since then, Lundy has released 14 albums, the most recent of which is the 2014 “Soul to Soul,” from which much of this weekend’s songs will come. But if Lundy’s stylings seem to have an older feel, there’s a reason for that.
“It’s all black music, and black music resonates in many different ways depending on who’s listening,” said Lundy, 61, a Miami native who lives in Los Angeles. “The style of my music represents the authentic tradition of jazz as I have evolved through it, which has more to do with the era of the great jazz vocalists who defined the music.
“Certainly, I wasn’t around during Billie Holiday’s time, but I have been influenced by her approach to lyric and interpretation. Sarah Vaughan certainly. I’m going to even say Aretha Franklin. I think my gospel roots in my music, certainly the 30 years of singing jazz standards, is in my music. I’m more a composer now, and when you listen to my songs now, you hear all of the essential elements that people define as jazz or other roots of the music, including the blues.”
She’ll bring her ensemble of Warren Wolf on vibraphone, Jamison Ross on drums, Kenny Davis on bass and Victor Gould on piano to this weekend’s performances.
When Lundy performs, she wants her material to be able to stand on its own and alongside those who have influenced her.
“I think because I’ve sung so much great work, it almost forces me — if I’m going to do my own music — I’ve got to stand next to those great artists,” she said. “My music has to hold up and have some of the same integrity and value as all of the songs I learned to sing jazz from. The audience gets, I think, a sense of authenticity and part of a lineage.
“When you listen to me, you can hear I’ve been influenced by great vocalists, great musicians — trumpet players, sax players and drummers, too. I think I’m just an amalgam of what we’ve come to identify as jazz music.”