Jazz Gallery
Soul / Gospel & World gallery
Essential Listening
Gig Guide / News
Opinion / Music Talk
The Hi Fi Experience
Related services
Related Sites & Info
Staff Profiles
Guest Feedback
Contact M V Studio
Back to Home Page






@ Pigeon Island, St. Lucia Jazz Festival
10 May 2008

Click an image to enlarge.


Singer/songwriter Ledisi (pronounced led-duh-see). Ledisi (meaning to bring forth in Nigerian) was born in the Big Easy where she sang with the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra when she was eight years old and spent many adolescent hours watching her mom perform with a local R&B band, often in a nearby park. After the family relocated to Oakland, CA, Ledisi followed her mothers’ lead and sang in a local band but left to form her own group and identity. She is most noted for her continuous performances in Beach Blanket Babylon, a long running San Francisco-based cabaret that features song parodies, celebrity impersonations, and enormous hats; she got the gig after being nominated for a Shellie award in 1990 for her role as Dorothy in a local version of the Wiz.

Ledisi later formed ‘Anibade’, Ledisi’s middle name, which depending on what you read means “to bring forth luck” or “my mother is great” in Yorubu. Band members included Sandra Manning (keyboards and chief songwriter) Cedrickke Dennis (guitar) Nelson Braxton (bass) Wayne Braxton (saxophone) and Tommy Bradford (drums).
The group built a hot reputation in the Bay area at Bruno’s, the Black Cat, and Rasselas (local clubs). Fans kept asking about a record so the band cut a demo, “Take Time,” that radio station KMEL aired and got a good response; the stroke prompted Ledisi to seek a deal with the major recording companies, all who praised and turned them down in the same breath. Frustrated, but not thwarted, they cut the critically acclaimed album “Soulsinger” and released it on LeSun Records in 1999 (owned by Ledisi and Sandra Manning), January 1, 2000. "Papa Loved to Love Me" - a personal account of a father sexually abusing his daughter - is one of the CD's most riveting and controversial tracks.

A breakthrough for Ledisi at urban adult contemporary radio occurred upon the release of the 2004 all-star collection Forever, For Always, For Luther - a salute to Luther Vandross. On this album, released by Verve Records via its GRP subsidiary, Ledisi covered the R&B master's “My Sensitivity (Gets in the Way)” with such tangy passion that yet another layer of audience began to wonder, “Who is this exciting new talent?” It was at this point that Verve - which had passed on signing her in the past - began to reconsider this versatile talent. But the process took two years.

Composer/keyboardist Rex Rideout produced Ledisi's Vandross cover, was instrumental in guiding her through the delicate transition from independent firebrand to major label artist. A veteran who has worked with pioneering soul-jazz greats from Roy Ayers to singer Angela Bofill, he understood what would be required from all involved to make Ledis’'s re-launch a success. Rideout explains:

“When I met Ledisi, I was floored by her. Watching her in the studio is like watching a performance. There’s a whole lot of music in this woman. The challenge has been finding the right voice for her - with enough of the fire that got her here yet chilled enough to take her further. That process will give her a solid foundation in the mainstream community. I told Verve, ‘Ledisi will be legendary.’ It's her time.”

Ledisi took the initiative to bring her artistry to the next level. She left all she was comfortable with in her Northern California support system to take a leap of faith on Broadway. She explains;

“Living in New York, I was doing things I’d never done before. In Oakland, I had a house and a car. In New York, I had a sleeping bag on a floor in a friend's apartment and had to walk everywhere!”

But the independent move paid off. She wound up being pivotal to the writing and production of the music and characters during the workshop stage of Oprah Winfrey’s Tony-winning stage adaptation of ‘The Color Purple’. Ledisi also understudied Tony Kushner/George C. Wolfe's off Broadway production “Caroline or Change.” All the while she was writing and cutting demos in her dressing room, then flying to L.A. - initially at her own expense - to record them properly.

Ultimately, Ledisi created the album “Lost and Found” her way - mixing old and new friends in familiar and fresh aural environs. The story was completely unscripted, unfolding in a way she proudly describes as “organic.”


If Lucelec (St. Lucia’s Electricity Services) could harness the energy Ledisi emits, they could probably light the whole Island for a day or two. She is simply a pint-sized powerhouse! This is the second time I have witnessed ‘a Ledisi performance’ (the first was at the Jazz Café in London, 2003). I was not just in awe of her voice back then (which is amazing) it was also her captivating stage presence, power and control that had me dumbstruck.

Here in 2008 Ledisi sounds better than ever. Pigeon island patrons literally ‘stood up and listened’ as Ledisi’s soaring vocals interrupted any casual conversations which may have started during the short intermission. Though her appearance was a brief one, her presence was felt immediately. Apparently there are already rumours of Ledisi being invited back to perform at next year’s festival.



Ledisi & Nick Colionne

Ledisi & Angie Stone

Angie Stone



Lost & Found Feeling orange but sometimes blue / The jazz singer Soulsinger



Click Ledisi's image to view her photographs at London's Jazz Cafe...
Click Nick Colionne's image to view his photographs...
Click Angie Stone's image to view her photographs...
Click Brigette McWilliams album to read her biography and album review...

Ledisi @ the Jazz Cafe (Click to go to her page) Nick Colionne @ Pigeon Island (Click to go to his page) Angie Stone @ Pigeon Island (Click to go to  her page) Brigette McWilliams - Too much woman. (Click to go to the Brigette McWilliams page)

Go back to the St. Lucia Jazz Festival 2008 home page.

 Go back to the soul gallery.

[ Top ]