Meet Jazz Vocalist – Adia Ledbetter

Adia Ledbetter

ENC: How would you describe your style? Sound?

Adia: I would describe my style as a blending of jazz and other genres of music. My compositions tend to be influenced by jazz and music of my time. As a youth and even now, I listen to jazz as well as hip hop, rhythm and blues, folk music, pop, latin, classical opera, rock, reggae, rap gospel and country. My sound has been described as sassy, soulful, and sultry. I would say that it is organic and one of authenticity. Yes, my attitude  and emotions come out in my singing. If I am singing about pain, then I am actually re-living a painful moment. I try to perform songs in which I only have a connection.

ENC: Do you consider yourself a “Jazz vocalist” or just as a “vocalist”? Please explain.

Adia: I do consider myself a “jazz vocalist”, or “Jazz vocal musician.” In my opinion being a “jazz vocal musician” says a lot more about me than just being a vocalist. I have been trained to sing all kinds of music. If you can sing jazz and understand the jazz language you are limitless.

ENC: How long have you been singing?

Adia: I have been singing for about 20 years now.” “I began singing while in middle school. Shortly after that I started accompanying my father on gigs.

ENC: What types of training has prepared you for your craft?

Adia: I have had a lot of training in different places. My first training came from listening to jazz music. I grew up in a household that played jazz music throughout the home. Of course, I rebelled initially to listen to rhythm and blues and rap. Later, I became involved in music at school. I played clarinet for about six months, and sang in chorus throughout middle and high school. I then studied voice with the great Martha Flowers. I went on to earn bachelors degrees in jazz studies and music education at North Carolina Central University. I studied classical and jazz. In May of 2010 i earned my masters in jazz vocal performance from Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College in New York.


ENC: How far has Jazz taken you geographically?

Adia: Most of my performing has been in the United States. I am looking to start doing a lot more traveling.

ENC: What awards have you accumulated thus far?

Adia: In 2011 I was added to the 2012-2014 Durham Arts Council’s CAP Roster. In 2008 I was the Emerging artist Award Recipient. In 2006 I won Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead Award, and 2006 DownBeat Magazine Outstanding Jazz Vocal Performance.

ENC: Why Jazz and not a different genre?

Adia: Jazz allows me to express myself completely. I can do and say anything I want to say. Jazz gives you freedom that you don’t necessarily get with other genres. in jazz I can sing a tune differently every time I sing it.

ENC: Who are some of your influences? Who has influenced you the most?

Adia: Wow, I have so many influences and so many people to thank. I grew up attending gigs with my father. He would perform with North Carolina’s own Nnenna Freelon and Eve Cornelious. I also had the privilege of working with the late Brother Yusuf Salim. I listened to Carmen McRae, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, and Betty Carter. I would have to admit that my greatest influence was my father bassist Freeman Ledbetter because he introduced music to me. I would also say Natalie Cole. As a young person I grew up listening to Ms. Cole singing rhythm and blues. Then she decided to record “Unforgettable.” Because I was a fan, I followed her to jazz. From there she led me to pay more attention to Billie, Carmen, Ella, Shirley, Betty, and Sarah. She was a vehicle that sent me on a lifelong investigative journey focused on jazz. I now strive to be a vehicle for the younger generation someday.I have also been influenced by instrumentalist such as Miles Davis, Coleman Hawkins, and Thelonious Monk. I know I am missing so many other people.

ENC: Who would you like to perform or record with in the future?

Adia: Oh wow! I would love to perform with so many people. I am afraid to say. There are so many talented musicians and singers emerging right now. I would love to create a project that highlighted some of north Carolina’s singers and musicians. There are also tons of New York musicians I would love to work with as well. Who knows, some may appear on my next recording, “Take 3: Rootamentry Elements.” I have plans to collaborate with other artists on this project. Just wait and see! My music will always include elements of other genres, but it will come from a jazz perspective. I want to preserve the jazz tradition. I would love to be a quest artist on a recording or performance. I won’t turn down the opportunity to sing other genres of music. Good music is good music. Who knows, I may put out a gospel recording , but you will still hear the jazz in me. It is a part of who I am!