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Stacey Kent returns to Jazz SLC series

Jazz vocalist Stacey Kent returns to Salt Lake City on Feb. 23 at the Capitol Theatre for the first leg of her 2015 world tour.

It’s no surprise that Salt Lake City is one of only three stops in the United States for Kent this year. This is her fifth visit to the Jazz SLC concert series.

“I don’t always tour as much as I did last year," Kent said over a Skype interview during a family ski trip in Aspen, Colorado. "My husband (tenor saxophonist Jim Tomlinson) and I were in 30 countries, and my body needs rest. I’ve accepted only three concerts in the States because the venues are so special to me. I agreed to come back to Salt Lake because of the jazz series Gordon Hanks has developed and because I feel such a powerful connection to the landscape and the people of Utah. We get each other.”

What makes Kent unique among her peers is her ability to change direction and language on stage at any given moment. Her mastery of French, Italian, German and Portuguese contribute greatly to her international popularity.

“I’ve always been interested in language and there is something very intimate and personal if you can sing to people in their own language," Kent said. "The human element, the connection between the audience and me, is very grounding and I try to sing the way I speak to people.”

Kent exhibits a curiosity of the human spirit that has fueled and informed both her music and her life.

“Growing up, I was immediately drawn to jazz," she said. "I liked the possibility jazz offered me and it wasn’t as limiting as rock and roll. There were more chords to play with, and I like classical music for the very same reason.”

Among the names that shaped and influenced her music are Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto. Kent also cited her passion for Brazilian music and musicians. “And of course, some of the greatest influences would have to be Jobim, Sergio Mendes, Luiz Bonfa and Django Reinhardt," she said. "Their music reflects the human condition and one can immediately feel the sadness and sense of longing in lyrics and compositions.”

Kent is reverential when she speaks of her paternal grandfather, who fled Russia during the Bolshevik revolution and lived in France before immigrating to the United States.

“My grandfather was such a pivotal mentor in my life," she said. "When I was growing up we used to listen to all types of music together. He was the person who taught me French and he used to recite poems by Baudelaire to me when I was very small. He looked at life with such tenderness, and it affected me deeply in the way I listen to music. Brazilian music resonates with me because of that intimate connection. It’s emotional in a very understated way and it has the ability to transform sadness into beauty. In our concerts, I try to find that balance.”

If you go ...

What: Jazz SLC featuring Stacey Kent

When: Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South

Tickets: $34.50 for adults, $10 for students with ID

Phone: 801-355-2787


Jeff Metcalf is a professor of English at the University of Utah and an avid jazz fan.