Next in our new series of interviews with some of Central Ohio’s finest jazz musicians is vocalist Dwight Lenox. Lenox has been an in-demand entertainer for over 40 years, performing across the country with numerous jazz greats. He performs regularly throughout the region, whether as a soloist with a big band or orchestra, or leading his own groups, including the Lenox Avenue Express. His next local show will be presenting dinner music with his small group at Barcelona on Sunday, March 29th at 7pm. Lenox was kind enough to answer our questions below and give us some insight to his career and approach:
When and why did you start playing music and jazz?
Dwight Lenox (DL): I have been singing since I was a young child. Between wanting to be a cowboy, a doctor and a millionaire, I have always wanted to perform. I was introduced to jazz as a teenager when my brother brought jazz albums home when he got out of the military.
I started to get into singing jazz when I lived in Denver during the early 70’s and have stayed with it since then.
Who are some of your main influences in your playing/performing?
DL: Most of my main influences were female vocalists, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Patti Austin. The reason why I listened to them is because they seem to do more with their voices than the male singers of the time. I also don’t like to listen to male singers because I don’t want to be influenced by what they did. I really don’t like sentences that start with “You know you sound just like…”
What is your fondest musical memory?
DL: I have had several fond memories performing. Singing with my old band at the Red Rocks Jazz Festival. Performing with the Ohio State Marching Band at OSU, The Big House and Picnic With The Pops. I remember my first performance with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra and with the Columbus and Central Ohio Symphonies.
There have been many fond memories and this exercise of writing them down makes me realize how fortunate and lucky I have been.
What are you listening to today? What’s on your playlist?
DL: To be very honest I don’t listen to music that much. The only time I really listen to music is when I am trying to hone in on a specific songs that I want to learn and perform. I try to research the music and find as many alternative ways of interpreting the song.
What inspires you about the Columbus Jazz scene?
DL: It’s good to see that jazz is still relevant and thriving in Columbus. The last show that I performed with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra showed that Sinatra and Jazz are still relevant. All four (4) shows were sold out. You can’t help but be inspired by that.
What are you working on for 2015? Any new projects, exciting shows or releases?
DL: Right now I am mentally working on researching two (2) CD projects and trying to decide which one comes first. I want to do one album that showcases some of the wonderful arrangements that I perform with my band, the Lenox Avenue Express Jazz and Dance Band. I also want to produce another Holiday Album. The first one I did was dynamite. There are so many great songs I haven’t sung yet.
For more info on Lenox, visit www.dwightlenox.com.