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23.9.07

Lizz Wright


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Lizz Wright - Salt - 2003 - Verve Resords

Vocalist Lizz Wright delivers jazz that harks back to such luminaries as Nina Simone and Abbey Lincoln on her debut Verve release, Salt. Still in her early twenties, Wright has a warm, dusky voice reminiscent of Cassandra Wilson and similarly to Wilson seems interested in tackling an eclectic mix of jazz standards, traditional folk, and R&B. Early on, a folky afterglow-Latin version of "Afro Blue" takes center stage followed by the gorgeous "Soon as I Get Home," which betters the version from The Wiz. Wright fairs equally well as a songwriter with about half the album filled with her soaring, bluesy ballads. There is a melancholy yet positive '70s vibe that eminates from songs like "Fire," which resonates lyrically as well as melodically much like the personal/sociopolitical writing of another of Wright's obvious inspirations, Terry Callier. Perhaps a little too low-key to register very high on the pop radio scale, but invested with enough sanguine emotionality and chops to make Salt easily recommended to fans of the neo-soul movement. © Matt Collar, All Music Guide

Check out her " Dreaming Wide Awake " album. It is also worthwhile listening to the work of Oleta Adams and Jill Scott, for a similar jazz/R&B/soul sound.

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TRACKS

01.Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly [05:07]
02. Salt [03:26]
03. Afro Blue [05:51]
04. Soon As I Get Home [04:26]
05. Walk with Me, Lord [04:06]
06. Eternity [03:34]
07. Goodbye [03:57]
08. Vocalise/End Of The Line [04:32]
09. Fire [04:14]
10. Blue Rose [04:05]
11. Lead The Way [04:23]
12. Silence [02:43]

CREDITS

Brian Blade - acoustic guitar
Sam Yahel - Hammond B-3 organ
Adam Rogers - acoustic, electric & bottleneck guitars
John Hart - acoustic guitar, guitar
Derrick Gardner - trumpet
Lizz Wright - vocals
Terreon Gully
Jeff Haynes - percussion
Crystal Garner
Sarah Adams
Vincent Gardner - trombone
Myron Walden - alto saxophone
Ron Carbone
Doug Weiss - acoustic bass
Kenny Banks - acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes piano

REVIEWS

The release of the long-anticipated debut from this talented, 20-something, Georgia-bred chanteuse shows that Norah Jones isn't the only "it girl" out there. Wright's cool contralto, which was previously heard on Joe Sample's The Pecan Tree, is a southern stew cooked with ample helpings of soul, jazz, R&B, and gospel. This CD, equally produced by Tommy LiPuma, John Cowherd, and drummer Brian Blade, features mostly mid-tempo renditions of a jazz-fusion ditty, a spiritual, a Broadway tune, a Latin number, light classical, and original compositions. Wright's vocal weight and fluent delivery echoes the talents of Lalah Hathaway, whether she’s putting her own sepia spin on Flora Purim's '70s gem "Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly," Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue" (with pianist Danilo Perez), or "Soon As I Get Home" from The Wiz. Though this record is a promising debut from Wright, one gets the sense that she’s a soul singer at heart, as evidenced by the down-home title tune. One thing's for sure: the road to Lizz Wright's future is wide open with no barriers in sight. © Eugene Holley, Jr. © 1996-2007, Amazon.com
A sweet young jazz singer -- steeped in the traditions of Dee Dee Bridgewater and Dianne Reeves, striking out on her own in a really solid debut album! The set's got a warm, jazzy feel -- lots of keyboards and piano in the backings, but done in a way that lifts up the voice of Lizz on a pillow of soul and spirituality. Tracks build from slow beginnings to a rich array of tones and colors -- done in a style that's emotive, but subtly so. Titles include nice covers of "Open Your Eyes You Can Fly" and "Afro Blue" -- plus "Soon As I Get Home", "Salt", "Fire", "Eternity", "Lead The Way", and "Silence". © 1996-2007, Dusty Groove America, Inc.

“My eyes burn, I have seen the glory of a brighter sun,” sings Lizz Wright. Lizz Wright’s musical recording Dreaming Wide Awake (2005), produced by Craig Street for Verve, is itself a bright light and it has become one of my favorite recordings of the last several years: the intelligence, honesty, and intimacy in Wright’s singing are what are most impressive, although I am fascinated by her understanding and presentation of musical tradition: of communal properties, of understood and accepted forms and meanings.

In an earlier recording by Lizz Wright, Salt (2003), produced by Tommy LiPuma, Brian Blade, and Jon Cowherd for Verve, Wright signaled her interest in various traditions—jazz, Broadway, and even classical: she announced herself a serious singer. In Salt’s “Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly,” a song of encouragement by the well-known jazz musician Chick Corea and Neville Porter—with the lines “see only what you want to see” and “open your eyes, you can fly” (lines that can suggest vision and adventure, or the self-delusion of a very false confidence)—Wright gives an open-hearted, fully voiced performance that is hard to turn away from. The next song, the title song “Salt,” with lines such as “How can you lose your song, when you’ve sung it so long, How can you forget your dance, when that dance is all you’ve ever had?” is an affirmation of culture, an affirmation that reminds me of Toni Morrison, who counseled women not to forget their ancient properties. “You can’t separate the two…just like the salt that’s in the stew,” sings Lizz Wright, who wrote the song “Salt,” a jazz ballad, which she sings passionately.

“Afro Blue,” a song written by Mongo Santamaria and Oscar Brown Jr., is a song made familiar by Abbey Lincoln, and it is the third song on Wright’s Salt album: with the song, its fame, and its quick piano notes and seemingly irregular drumbeats that crest with a soft cascade of cymbals, Wright seems to be identifying with the more visionary aspects of jazz. “Soon as I Get Home,” written by Charlie Smalls, one of the writers of the musical “The Wiz,” a retelling of The Wizard of Oz story, is a gesture toward Broadway and popular music. The song is about being lost and found and even refers to the Wiz, and what he might offer. It has a delicate but firmly structured arrangement and a performance that is warm and intense. “Walk with Me, Lord” is a traditional spiritual—an expression of spirit, a calling to the narrator’s god—and Wright sings it in a full, dark voice. Wright handles the song easily, with tenderness and strength, so easily that one imagines it is no challenge whatever. In the first four or five songs on Salt, Lizz Wright establishes her talent, her knowledge, and her right to our attention. She knows the traditions that exist, and can master them—and so the question is, Will she be emboldened by them, or trapped by them? Will she add to them, or simply keep them alive?

In her own song “Eternity,” the sixth song on Salt, Wright uses, in her lyrics, nature imagery (imagery that is matched by the photographs taken of her for the recording’s jacket by Bill Phelps: similar photographs by Phelps accompany Wright’s Dreaming Wide Awake). In “Eternity” the singer asks, “What is the gift that you possess? What is this strange happiness?” and states, “If the answer is you, I’ll have to have you for eternity.” She follows that with a carefully handled civil song of parting written by Gordon Jenkins called “Goodbye,” before giving us a combination “Vocalise/End of the Line” by Rachmaninov, and John Edmonson and Cynthia Medley: it begins with humming, and ends with sung lyrics about a relationship’s end—it’s a sad song—and it has violas and cellos. (Elsewhere, John’s last name is spelled Edmondson.)

Another one of Wright’s original songs follows, “Fire,” and it too has elemental imagery; and it is about love and what people give each other. “Blue Rose,” by Wright with Kenny Banks, and featuring an acoustic guitar, seems to compare a woman to a morning glory lost in a tangle of vine. A song about being led by faith, grace, and love is Brian Blade’s “Lead the Way,” and Wright’s directness and the spareness of the arrangement diffuses the sanctimony, and this surprisingly emerges as one of the set’s stronger songs. Wright closes with her own “Silence,” which almost seems a modern hymn, and is sung in a strong declamatory tone—and there is a short, mysterious line “silence is a song.”

Lizz Wright’s Salt is a collection made with care—it is elegant and intelligent, qualities that I always want, always relish, and am glad to find in the recording, even as I wonder about the limits of tradition. © Daniel Garrett All contents copyright © 2001- 2007 all rights reserved ( About the reviewer: Daniel Garrett is a writer whose work has appeared in or on AllAboutJazz.com, American Book Review, Cinetext.Philo, The Compulsive Reader, IdentityTheory.com, Offscreen.com, PopMatters.com, Review of Contemporary Fiction, WaxPoetics.com, and World Literature Today. ) www.compulsivereader.com/html/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1297

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BIO

Born on January 22, 1980, in Hahira, GA. Education: Attended Georgia State University. Addresses: Management--Direct Management, 947 North La Cienaga Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90069, phone: (310) 854-3535, fax: (310) 854-0810. Website--Lizz Wright Official Website: http://www.lizzwright.net.
Since her 2002 breakthrough performance at a Los Angeles Billie Holiday tribute, Lizz Wright has been regarded as an important young talent in contemporary jazz. Wright inked a deal with seminal jazz label Verve soon after the Holiday performance. She released her debut album, Salt, in 2003, followed by Dreaming Wide Awake two years later. Her husky contralto voice and penchant for mixing jazz standards with pop, gospel, and soul numbers have earned her comparisons to such legends as Abbey Lincoln and Nina Simone, to young neo-soul singers like Jill Scott and Angie Stone, and to crossover artists like Norah Jones and Cassandra Wilson.
Wright was born on January 22, 1980, in the tiny south Georgia town of Hahira. The second of three children, she was raised in Hahira and in Kathleen, Georgia, by her parents, both ministers. Gospel music was a part of Wright's life from an early age, and she and her older brother and younger sister sang together in a gospel trio. Wright detailed her sheltered upbringing in a 2005 interview with Peter Culshaw of the London Daily Telegraph. "It was mostly Pentecostal and very strict," she told Culshaw. "Women were not allowed to wear colored nail varnish, do sports, or wear trousers. We had no television and I only heard the radio when my parents went out to a Bible study group. They liked a quiet, meditative house. I'd listen to radio dramas, which is where I got my love for storytelling. I had to create what I didn't have. I did listen to some pop music, but I didn't like it much."
Wright learned about jazz by listening to pianist Marian McPartland's weekly show on National Public Radio. "Marian's show was my first introduction to jazz and I loved it," she told George Varga of the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2004. "It was very ladylike and modern sounding to me, but still had a lot of colors and ideas from gospel and blues that I'd heard before. It's something that called out to me (because) it was sacred." The mixed-genre sound of contemporary gospel artists also made its mark. "The contemporary gospel movement really influenced me and that was mostly the artists out of Detroit, the Winan family, Hawkins family and Commission. These artists started taking on the sounds of R&B, soul, blues, and jazz, but still sang the gospel. It really got me through school. I wouldn't have made it with just quartet music or the spirituals," Wright said in a 2005 interview with Beatrice Richardson for JazzReview.com.
After high school, Wright studied music at Georgia State University in Atlanta, but dropped out when she decided her college education didn't merit the cost. She first drew attention in 1999, when she sat in on a jam session during the Atlanta Jazz Festival. After singing the two jazz standards she knew, the crowd asked for more. She responded with "Amazing Grace." One of the enthusiastic audience members was Ron Simblist, who introduced Wright to the gospel ensemble In the Spirit, which she joined in 2000. A friend of the wife of Verve Music Group president Ron Goldstein, Simblist also sent Goldstein some of Wright's recorded tunes. Simblist followed up with another demo a year later and helped secure Wright a deal. Around the same time, Wright appeared on the bill with Lou Rawls, Dianne Reeves, and others at Billie Holiday tributes in Los Angeles and Chicago. By all accounts, she stole the show. "Lizz Wright walked on stage at the Hollywood Bowl last summer a virtual unknown. Fifteen minutes later, she walked off a star," wrote Don Heckman in a 2003 article for the Los Angeles Times.
Wright began recording Salt in 2002, with John Clayton producing. Eventually, the sessions with Clayton were scrapped, however. "I had some more growing to do," Wright told Heckman in 2003. Veteran producer Tommy LiPuma, who has worked with numerous Grammy-winning artists, took over production duties, assisted by former Joni Mitchell and Wayne Shorter drummer Brian Blade. Salt was released in 2003. Due to the album's eclectic song selection, which included five originals written by Wright alongside jazz, Latin, and spiritual numbers, and even a song from the musical The Wiz, Wright immediately drew comparisons to crossover artists Norah Jones and Cassandra Wilson. "I don't fall in any of those traditional definitions of what a 'jazz singer' is," Wright told Varga. "But to me, jazz embraces a lot. It is a fusion, it is eclectic, and I don't know where it's going. But I definitely want to give back what I've gotten from jazz, which is a liberation (that results) from mixing things and seeing how they are connected."
Wright secured an opening slot on a tour with Ray Charles, and film director Spike Lee interrupted his own shooting schedule to direct the video for Salt's first single, the Chick Corea song "Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly." Salt became one of Billboard magazine's top ten contemporary jazz vocal albums of 2003, and the Associated Press named it one of the top ten albums of the year. Wright was named Best New Artist in the Jazz Times magazine readers' poll, and she performed at the Newport and Playboy jazz festivals. Still, some critics offered tempered praise. "Her only major failing at present is that the heady passion and sophistication she brings to her music is not yet matched by her abilities as a lyric writer, which sometimes veers toward mawkish sentiments and too obvious word rhymes. That weakness aside, her debut album impresses with its artistic maturity and welcome subtlety," wrote Varga.
Wright moved briefly to New York City, then settled in Seattle. She released Dreaming Wide Awake in 2005. Craig Street, who had worked on Jones's debut and Wilson's popular crossover album New Moon Daughter, produced the album, which was recorded in the Catskill Mountains with all the musicians playing together in one room. The album was hailed as a daring, honest effort. "'Awake' is a brave and naked album, wildly eclectic but always under control. It is at once slow-moving (like the rural South) and cosmopolitan (like New York and Seattle)," wrote Nick Marino in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Wright told Heckman that she has not determined her next direction. "[I] can't tell you that I've even really found myself yet. I really just want to continue to keep learning more music," she said. "I want to maintain my spirituality, and I want to be in an environment where I can grow. If I can have those things, everything else will take care of itself." © Kristin Palm, Copyright © 2007 Net Industries - All Rights Reserved www.musicianguide.com/biographies/1608004759/Lizz-Wright.html

3 comments:

A.O.O.F.C said...

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karo said...

congratulations to your great blog and the fine work you put in everyday.

Thanks for presenting that album

greetings from germany: karo

A.O.O.F.C said...

Thank you for your kind words, karo.