Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Leslie Vincent: “About Last Night” (2023) CD Review

Leslie Vincent is a jazz vocalist and composer based in Minnesota. She released her first album, These Foolish Things, in 2020, and has now followed that with About Last Night. This album features mostly covers, along with a couple of original compositions. Joining her on this album are Ted Godbout on piano, Matt McIntyre on bass, Ben Ehrlich on drums, Mitch Van Laar on trumpet, Tommy Boynton on guitar and backing vocals, Tony Balluff on clarinet, Mary Alice Hutton on violin, Stephanie Skor on violin, Niloofar Sohi on viola, and Rosa Thompson-Vieira on cello.

The album opens with an original composition, “Psychedelics With You,” and even before Leslie Vincent comes in, this track is a delight. That great, raw beat and the horn get things off to a delicious start. And when Leslie does come in, things are truly in motion, as she sings about a time that might have been, about enjoying hallucinogens with a friend. “There’s so much beauty in this world to cry about/My eyes grow big as the room grows small/My phone rings, but I won’t take that call/Because, ooh yeah, I’ve just done psychedelics with you.” Though apparently Leslie Vincent in actuality did not partake, this song completely rings true, like that line about her eyes growing big, and it is causing all sorts of memories to play through my brain. This is a fantastic track, wonderfully playful, and that instrumental section has a glorious power and energy. I love that trumpet. Halfway through, suddenly there is a shift, as will sometimes happen during a trip. You know those serious introspective and sad tangents that you sometimes go on. Here she sings about how their paths led the two friends apart. The song’s great drumbeat leads back into the main vibe of the song, and by the end it is a party, no question about it, with a New Orleans kind of vibe, and the band jams. Well, if you know psychedelics, you know a good jam is always appreciated. The clarinet, trumpet and drums are urging that the fun continue indefinitely. This is one of my favorite tracks.

The album then goes in a very different direction with a beautiful cover of “What’ll I Do,” written by Irving Berlin. “What’ll I do/When I am wondering who/Who is kissing you/What’ll I do.” Wow, what a gorgeous and moving vocal performance she delivers in this opening section, supported by some warm, thoughtful work on piano. And then nearly two minutes in, the song kicks in, and her vocal approach changes. Now there is power and attitude in her delivery. A strong and vibrant voice. There is soon a cool lead on bass, and the track also includes a drum solo near the end. Yes, this track has everything I could want, leading listeners through several different emotions in response to its varied approach. “If I Were A Bell” begins with the piano imitating the sound of a bell, and when the song kicks in, gently swinging. Leslie Vincent’s voice has a joyful power, as she gives us a delightful performance. The horn backs her up, matching her energy. I also love this track’s rhythm. There is some absolutely wonderful work on drums.

“Icetown Blues” is an original composition, this one co-written by Ted Olsen. The trumpet helps set the tone at the beginning.  Leslie Vincent delivers another wonderful vocal performance, with some delightful and unexpected phrasing, reminding me at times a bit of Norah Jones. Check out these lines: “Why does the bleakest season have to overstay/Bringing us those icetown blues/Burning dinner as the sun goes down/The smell of leaves turning mercilessly brown/Even the bluebirds want to get out of town.” This song has an easygoing groove. Leslie Vincent’s original numbers are among the best tracks on this album. I hope she continues to write and her next album has more original material. “Icetown Blues” is followed by “No Moon At All,” written by David Mann and Redd Evans. This rendition begins on bass, sounding wonderfully deep, wonderfully low. And her voice comes in, for the first several lines supported by just bass, which is delicious. This is a sexy and excellent rendition, each of the instruments adding to that atmosphere. There is a nice lead on trumpet in the middle. And as the track began, so it ends, with the bass. Ah, so good. This is another of the disc’s highlights.

“Stars Fell On Alabama” begins with the string section, that work quickly becoming dramatic, fitting with the song’s first line, “We lived our little drama.” I love the cymbals under her vocals as she starts. This is a compelling and engaging rendition, unlike other versions I’ve heard. Seriously, check out her version. It will give you a fresh look at this familiar number. That’s followed by “Laura,” which begins softly on piano, the theme played tentatively, almost delicately for a moment. It then becomes more certain, and more somber and intense, supported by that drum work as Leslie’s vocals come in. Her vocal approach is striking. This track also features dramatic work on strings. This is such an interesting rendition. Her final line, “But she’s only a dream,” leads back to the beginning, with that soft touch on piano for just a moment, like a passing dream. Leslie Vincent then gets bluesy with “Black Coffee,” written by Sonny Burke and Paul Francis Webster, delivering another tremendous vocal performance. I love the way she varies her vocal delivery, belting out some lines, then giving a couple almost as spoken word. This track also features another great lead on bass in the middle.

“How You Loved Me On Mars” was composed by pianist Josh Nelson and Kathleen Grace. Josh Nelson included it on his Exploring Mars album, released in 2015. Leslie Vincent’s rendition features another strong and moving vocal performance, supported by piano. A song of looking back and letting go. “How you loved me on Mars/How you wrapped your arms around me/In the red light of day/Volcanoes of ice and rivers of clay/Became full of fire and raging waters/Underneath the same old stars/How you loved me on Mars.” Leslie Vincent wraps up the album with her version of “This Time The Dream’s On Me,” a song written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. As it begins, her voice is supported by piano. The track then grows as the other instruments come in. “And to see you through/‘Til you’re everything that you want to be.” Oh yes, sometimes we need to hear that. It’s not too late, right? The horn comes in, so warm and sweet, this track being a beautiful ending to an excellent album.

CD Track List

  1. Psychedelics With You
  2. What’ll I Do
  3. If I Were A Bell
  4. Icetown Blues
  5. No Moon At All
  6. Stars Fell On Alabama
  7. Laura
  8. Black Coffee
  9. How You Loved Me On Mars
  10. This Time The Dream’s On Me

About Last Night was released on July 27, 2023, and is available on vinyl as well as CD.

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