Connie Evingson: Got The Fever
Mpls/St. Paul Magazine - March, 1999
Rebecca Lunna, March, '99
Connie Evingson has been immersed in jazz since infancy, growing up on the sounds of Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald from her parents' extensive jazz collection. Little wonder that she sank her teeth into song early, joining the "church cherub choir" in her hometown of Hibbing at age five. Two years later, the choir's director plucked her for a production of The King and I at the high school's jewel-box theater. "The minute I set foot in the theater," Evingson says, "I thought, Wow, this is the place for me."
Though Evingson is now happily consumed by jazz, it's a risk that took a few trial runs. "For a while, I was scared to put all of my eggs in one basket," she admits, "but I kept jumping back in the basket." A University of Minnesota graduate with a degree in Speech-Communications, Evingson gained local fame in the early eighties as a singer at the now defunct Night Train in St. Paul. She worked the local club circuit (with a short stint in New York) before trading the microphone for a career in advertising.
Then, in 1985, her friend Chris Brown, a Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra bassist, recruited her to sing on the McKnight stage at the Ordway Music Theatre grand opening. "So I did it and I got the bug again," Evingson says. I think I left my job within six or eight months and was back on the scene."
When Evingson met Sanford Moore at Ruby's Cabaret a year later, she began singing with his newly formed cabaret group, Moore by Four. Although not an original member of the popular ensemble, Evingson continues to sing with the group while making time for other gigs, including a series of recent projects honoring swing diva Peggy Lee.
" [About seven years ago], in the space of about two weeks, three people spoke to me about Peggy Lee," Evingson says. "All of them said something like, 'You remind me of her.' ... Not 'You sound like her,' but 'You remind me of her.'" Curiosity piqued, Evingson bought Lee's records and found a kinship with the artist. "I could hear something," she says. "Maybe it was her approach, which is a little reserved. My approach has always been more understated than big and boomy."
Evingson staged a series of Peggy Lee tribute concerts through the Twin Cities Jazz Society,then posed the idea of a biographical play to the Illusion Theater. Last summer, she starred in Kim Hines's Fever: A Tribute to Peggy Lee-part of the theater's Fresh Ink Series - and crooned to sellout crowds every night, even after theater management doubled seating capacity. Starting March 19, Evingson returns to the Illusion (612-339-4944) to revive the concert-style show, featuring twenty-five of Lee's songs mingled with glances at her life.
Evingson also has recorded an album to accompany Fever and will wrap up another CD thisspring. The versatile thrush then has another style of songs to pursue. "When [I was a kid] we would go in the car with my mom and listen to country-western music, Evingson says. To this day, I really like [that music] and that's going to be my next project."
© 2003-2017 Connie Evingson