Adia Ledbetter was born in Durham, N.C. She started singing in elementary school and church and started taking voice lessons in high school. After high school, she took a break from voice lessons to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise and Sports Science from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. While attending college she had the opportunity to travel and sing jazz with pianist Yusuf Salim and bassist Freeman Ledbetter. After working in the field of Exercise and Sports Science for about three years, Adia decided to quit working to pursue her dreams of becoming a jazz musician.
Adia is a recent graduate of North Carolina Central University with degrees in Jazz Studies and Music Education. She has performed with the NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble and the University Touring Choir. Her performing experience includes opening for jazz luminaries Hubert Laws, Nnenna Freelon, Jimmy Heath, Grady Tate, Freddie Cole Antonio Hart, and the Branford Marsalis Quartet. Adia most recently studied voice under the tutelage of Lenora Zenzalai Helm. She has also had the opportunity to study with Shelia Jordan, Madeline Eastman, Dena DeRose, Martha Flowers, Harold Mabern, Barry Harris, George Cables, Carmen Lundy and Jennifer Shelton.
Adia’s debut recording, “First Take” features Generations, a straight ahead jazz quartet spanning two generations.
Adia was chosen as an outstanding performer by DOWNBEAT magazine (June 2006) and was selected to participate in the 2006 Kennedy Center Betty Carter Jazz Ahead International Jazz Residency and Performance Project. In 2007 she was listed as a “vocalist to watch” in the NC Independent Weekly. In 2008 she was choose as an Emerging Artist by the Durham Arts Council.
After spending a year teaching middle school chorus, piano, and introducing students to jazz, Adia is currently pursuing a Master of Jazz Studies Degree at Queens College in New York. She is also performing with Generations, working on a second CD. She is dedicated to the preservation of jazz music and hopes to continue a successful career as a jazz vocal musician and educator.
Take 2: Rendezvous With Yesterday, the sophomore effort by Adia Ledbetter, returns to the spotlight one of the most gifted young vocalists in jazz today. Following up on the alluring promise of her well-received debut disc, First Take, Ledbetter demonstrates her continuing development not only as a superb singer, but as a talented lyricist/arranger/composer as well. A native of Durham, North Carolina, Adia began her love affair with music, like many jazz greats, singing in her church choir and developed her God given talents in school, receiving her BA from North Carolina Central University and finally earning a Masters Degree in the Queens College Jazz Studies program founded by NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Heath (then headed by Heath’s successor trumpeter Michael Mossman), studying improvisation with saxophonist Antonio Hart. Further tutelage with young veterans Lenora Zenzali Helm and J.D. Walters has invested her sound with a new found maturity that is sure to garner her the attention she now so richly deserves.
Following recognition as an outstanding performer by Downbeat magazine in 2006, Ledbetter was chosen to participate in the Kennedy Center Jazz Ahead International Jazz Residency and Performance Program. She has since gone on to spread her sound in concert and club appearances in New York City, Washington, DC. and various venues in her home state of North Carolina. The album First Take featured the singer with Generations, a straight ahead quartet that included veteran artists, bassist Freeman Ledbetter and the late pianist Yusuf Salim (an important mentor to Ledbetter and many other young Durhamites). On Take Two the vocalist fronts a new group with pianist Ed Paolantonio, drummer Orlandus Perry and Freeman Ledbetter back on bass. In addition there are two intimate duet performances with guitarist Justin C. Martin.
Take 2: Rendezvous With Yesterday opens with a medley of Ledbetter’s own composition “Closer” and the Great American Songbook classic “You And The Night And The Music” -- an ingenious bringing together of the old and the new that is at the very heart of Adia’s musical personality. Opening with “Closer,” a seductive tome that begins as an enticing voice-bass duet with the composer singing over a Latin tinged habanera rhythm before becoming a soulfully intoned straight ahead swinger that segues seamlessly into the Arthur Schwartz/Howard Dietz standard with the shared message of two people brought together by the sounds of music. The rhythm section cooking, Ledbetter sings with accomplished authority, sharing the spotlight with pianist Paolantonio, who solos convincingly.
Ledbetter takes “Darn That Dream” at an achingly slow tempo that would pose much difficulty to most young singers, but which she handles with laudable assurance as she takes her time exploring the lyrics’ many subtle nuances. Displaying a clear attentiveness to diction and dynamics, Adia sings with a heartfelt honesty that makes this telling of the song’s sad story moving and utterly believable.
Beginning “Beautiful Love” with an acapella recitation of her own additional lyrics serving as a verse to introduce the well known words to the classic melody, revealing an innate sense of rhythm and flawless tone, Ledbetter is then dramatically joined by the trio for the chorus on this bright Ledbetter arrangement that includes an unaccompanied scat interlude that references the cadences of “Autumn Leaves” as it leads into piano and bass solos that give it a truly swinging jazz character that culminates with the singer going out on an extended high note.
Ledbetter again contributes her own knowing words as an introduction to her powerfully moving reading of “Can’t Help Loving Dat Man Of Mine.” Exuding both sadness and strength in this most personal interpretation of the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein evergreen, Adia’s voice faintly hearkens to her Southern roots, adding to the integrity of her performance.
“I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” is a duo outing by Ledbetters – Freeman and Adia -- with the former’s briskly walking bass accompanying first the latter’s opening scat chorus and then underpinning her measured singing of Dorothy Fields’ famous lyrics to the popular Jimmy McHugh melody before his own solo that precedes her zestful outchorus.
Tadd Dameron’s “Ladybird” is given a fresh new treatment here with Ledbetter’s appealing arrangement of the bebop classic beginning as a bossa nova with a sensual recital of the seldom heard lyric before going into a scatting straight ahead chorus. Appropriately, piano, bass and drums each get a turn on this one.
“I’m Gonna Laugh You Right Out Of My Life” is an intimate duet between Ledbetter and the fine guitarist Justin C. Martin, the former evincing a delicate vulnerability in her voice while singing the song’s melancholic message, but without sacrificing the ironic tone that betrays a deeper understanding of the sad but hopeful lyric.
Ledbetter’s title track is a confessional monologue inspired by the inauguration of Barack Obama as president and the artist’s resultant self-examination yielding fervent feelings of gratitude and possibilities. Joined again by Martin on guitar, the singer lays down a happy blues thanking God, family, friends, great jazz queens, mentor Yusuf Salim, vocal coaches, a first love and finally the spirit within her.
Cooperatively arranged by the band as a tribute to Salim, “These Foolish Things” is first heard with a slow/medium tempo “All Blues” background with Ledbetter taking her time listing the foolish remembrances before kicking up the tempo, swinging like mad on this tribute to Yusuf Salim.
Take 2: Rendezvous With Yesterday closes with Ledbetter’s “Only One,” a prayerful duet with pianist Paolantonio that while somewhat reminiscent of the spiritual seventies sound of Doug and Jean Carn, clearly identifies Adia Ledbetter as one today’s truly personal voices. A voice destined to be heard by the many who love music and all the joy it brings to life.