Kevyn Lettau is an artist that takes several listenings to really get a handle on her craft. This past Thursday we had the chance to finally catch up with her and see her live at the wonderful venue in Temecula CA called “Jazz at the Merc.” She did a duo with her long time collaborator and accompanist Russell Ferrante and the rest of the evening was magic.
For my ears there are two types of jazz singers, those with gorgeous voices and those that use their voice as an instrument. Kevyn wears hats for both these styles. Kevyn has been on the west coast scene for a while now. She has recently settled back into San Diego where her wine seems to be aging and mellowing well.
Her choice of songs ranged from some of the great standards like Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust and her mesmerizing rendition of I’ve Got You Under My Skin to the almost obscure evergreen, A Sinner Kissed an Angel. In each case Kevyn threw herself into the lyrics and explored all of the avenues and became one with the song and it rubbed off on the small but attentive Merc audience. Later in the set she and Russell had some fun with Sunny Side of the Street featuring some tongue in cheek strident stride piano bqcking.
Kevyn’s forte comes as a poet. She writes the poem and sends it off to Russell who puts music to the words and they become Kevyn’s art. The Cherry Tree and a song about Fathers she performed sounding between jazz and folksy however poignant. Kevyn’s interpretations are moving and she is a visual happening on stage.
Russell is the consummate pianist accompanist. Since they’ve performed together for as long as they have there is that uncanny marriage of styles that come together and make for a great program for the rest of us.
Kevyn can swing, make no mistake about it. She and Russell have a romp as she performed a real tongue twisting vocalese, Out of Town, from one of the Yellowjackets original lines, a group in which Russell was the keyboardist and original founder. She told the audience that her ex husband suggested that she put lyrics to this complicated line. Kevyn confessed, “Sure, but he didn’t have to sing it.”
While it is difficult for any quality jazz singer to get by in today’s culture we feel blessed that a duo with Kevyn and Russell is made available to us her in Temecula where we can go to dig and appreciate their contribution to the music.