Few area musicians have amassed the performance and recording credits, let alone the diversity of projects, of songstress Connie Evingson. From Peggy Lee to the Beatles, from Django Reinhardt to David Frishberg, from swing to zing, Connie has covered the waterfront of jazz. A founding member of the quartet Moore by Four and an internationally in-demand solo artist, Connie has a long tradition of bringing holiday cheer to the stages of the Twin Cities. For two nights, December 28-29 (7 pm), Connie and friends Mary Louise Knutson, Gordy Johnson and Dave Karr transform Crooner’s Dunsmore Room into a cozy winter hideaway.
A native of Hibbing in northern Minnesota’s Iron Range, Connie Evingson grew up listening to her father’s records of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Joe Williams, Tony Bennett, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, and later Peggy Lee and Shirley Horn. Influenced by these early muses as well as the musical icons of her generation (the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Sting, Bonnie Raitt), Connie’s eclectic tastes were soon evident, from her first club gig at the old Night Train in St. Paul to a brief stint with the Minnesota Vocal Jazz Ensemble before she joined Moore By Four in 1986. With Moore by Four, Connie performed and toured the world throughout the late 80s and 90s, often opening for the biggest stars in music. In the past decade, her career as a soloist has included nine CDs for Minnehaha Music, most releases charting on Jazzweek’s Top 50 for extended periods. Long regarded as among the top echelon of jazz artists in the Midwest, recipient of two McKnight Artist Fellowships, and nominated as Jazz Week’s Vocalist of the Year in 2005, Connie’s back-to-back recordings of hot club swing (Gypsy in My Soul, Stockholm Sweetnin’) brought renewed attention to the genre and led to performances at Jazz Alley in Seattle, Blues Alley in Washington, DC and appearances in Europe.
But Connie Evingson has never been one to rest on the laurels of a popular style, and even while Gypsy in My Soul was climbing the charts in 2005, she was delving into a new project, the songs of Dave Frishberg. Little Did I Dream (2008) was arguably one of Connie’s most successful recordings, gaining accolades from local and national press. “Little did I dream that one day I’d get to record an entire album of his songs—with him at the piano,” said Connie. Connie’s 2012 Sweet Happy Life showcased her “framing and saluting [Norman] Gimbel’s work with her delightful voice, superb diction, timing and phrasing” (All About Jazz). In addition to curating Jazz at the Jungle productions over the past five years and heading a monthly Jazz in the Lounge gig at the Minneapolis Woman’s Club, Connie appears regularly at the Dakota, Vieux Carré, and Crooners Lounge, and, in June 2013, made her Jazz at Lincoln Center debut in Michael Feinstein’s “Swinging With the Big Bands,” featuring Wynton Marsalis. Connie’s recent projects include a return to hot club repertoire with All The Cats Join In, recorded with the John Jorgenson Quartet and released at the Dakota in fall 2014, as well an ongoing series of productions at the Jungle Theater with pianist Jon Weber. In the past year, she has assembled what she has dubbed the Minnehaha Hot Club, performing monthly at Vieux Carré. Connie received an Artist Initiative Grant for 2015 from the Minnesota State Arts Board, which supported concerts at the American Swedish Institute.
Sitting on the edge of Moore Lake, the Dunsmore Room at Crooners Lounge will seem more like a rural winter hideaway than a suburban supper club, although that new nine-foot Steinway is as fine as any in the Big Apple. Connie’s repertoire will no doubt include selections from her award-winning CD, The Secret of Christmas. Connie will have the superb backing of an all-star band, including Mary Louise Knutson (piano), Gordon Johnson (bass), and Dave Karr (saxophone). Hurry to make your reservation for either Wednesday or Thursday shows (7 pm) as only a few tickets remain!
The Dunsmore Room at Crooners Lounge is located at 6161 Highway 65 NE (Central Av), just north of I-694 and about 20 minutes north of downtown Minneapolis. www.croonersloungemn.com