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Take Five With Teraesa Vinson

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Teraesa Vinson: Some musicians take the road less traveled on their creative journey, and vocalist Teraesa Vinson has a unique perspective on following one's bliss. The St. Louis native actually completed a B.A. in Psychology at Spelman College and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology at the University of Florida before deciding to pursue her musical aspirations. After a time teaching other students to follow their dreams, she decided maybe it was time she heeded her own advice.

After a relatively short stint in the city, Vinson got the chance to record for the first time in 2004. That debut, Opportunity Please Knock, was an occasion to record with some outstanding musicians: Ron Blake, Tom Dempsey, Carlton Holmes, Nicki Parrott, and Dion Parson. The record attracted both traditional jazz enthusiasts and a more mainstream audience. Moreover, the album was critically well-received and earned airplay on radio stations across the globe.

Yet another great opportunity came Vinson's way in 2005, when Vinson became the resident vocalist at Langans in Times Square [New York City]. Singing alongside Quincy Davis and his trio, Vinson continues to perform at Langans weekly in addition to other venues around the city.

2007 promises to be an exciting year, as Vinson just completed her follow-up recording, entitled Next To You. Aiming for a more intimate feel, the recording is a duet album with good friend and stellar guitarist Tom Dempsey. The two have collaborated since Vinson's first performances, and Dempsey was also featured on her debut recording. The easy chemistry between the two frequently enchants their audiences.

Instrument(s): vocals.

Teachers and/or influences? There are a lot. I've worked with Sheila Jordan, who is so great. I'm working with a classical teacher now, which is different but great as well. Being a child of the '80s, I've been influenced by pop music in addition to all sorts of jazz.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... ...I danced around over my grandmother's record player around the age of two. Of course I don't remember it, but apparently there is photographic evidence. There are also more action photos while dressed in German folk-singing costumes but you'll never get them from me!

Favorite venue: I play regularly at Langans in Times Square, on 47th Street. I like playing other places, and I like playing at more "listening" venues, but Langans has also, in a way, become home. The mood is very laidback and the staff is wonderful, so I'm a happy camper.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? My latest recording (Next To You) is my favorite I think. Just because it was such a different experience doing a duo recording. And the fact that I recorded it all in one day—although my voice teacher was very unhappy about that.

Did you know... I am a huge baseball fan. I pretty much love sports in general, but baseball is my favorite. I'm from St. Louis, so the Cardinals are part of my extended family. I even took a semester off grad school because I got a chance to intern with the Braves.

How would you describe the state of jazz today? I think it is constantly growing and changing, and that's a good thing.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? Willingness to accept the change and embrace all that jazz is and is becoming.

What is in the near future? I just finished my latest recording (whew!), so I'm going to focus on getting that out into the world right now. Of course, as always, I already have ideas about the next one!

By Day: Right now I'm also a college professor. I know—weird, right? But I teach at Teachers College/Columbia U in the Department of Counseling and Clinical Psych.

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