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Lizz Wright


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Jazz with shades of R&B, blues, folk and pop/rock

Status:

Most recent release, Freedom & Surrender (2015)

See also:

Lizz Wright's site

Wikipedia's entry for Lizz Wright

Lizz Wright's Facebook page

Comparisons:

Nina Simone, Cassandra Wilson

Covers/own material:

Own, co-written, and covers

General comments:

Driving home, a singer named Lizz Wright was being interviewed on WXPN. she has an amazing speaking voice, incidentally, but it is nothing compared to her singing voice... her cover of "a taste of honey" is one of the more brilliant things i've heard recently. (brni @ kappamaki . com)

Comments about live performance:

I had the privilege of seeing Lizz last year at the Au Bar in New York City—it was an excellent show—very jazz-oriented. (jjhanson@att.net)

Recommended first album:

Dreaming Wide Awake

Recordings:


Salt

Release info:

2003

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Lizz Wright—vocals

Guest artists include:

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

Produced by:

Craig Street

Comments:

Mostly low-key R&B-influenced jazz with seductive vocals. Highlights include "Blue Rose" and "Lead the Way." (JoAnn Whetsell)

Dreaming Wide Awake

Release info:

2005—Verve Forecast—B0010292-02

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Lizz Wright

Guest artists include:

Chris Bruce, Greg Leisz, Bill Frisell—guitar
Marc Anthony Thompson—harmonica, background vocals
Glenn Patscha—keyboards, background vocals
Patrick Warren—keyboards
David Piltch—bass instrument
Earl Harvin—drums
Jeffrey Haynes—percussion
Toshi Reagon—background vocals

Produced by:

Craig Street

Comments:

Her first album was definitely more r&b/jazz, but Dreaming Wide Awake would definitely appeal to ecto folks—being more folk-oriented. She does a good cover of Neil Young's "Old Man" (not quite as good as The Wailin' Jennys' version though). The album reminds me a lot of my favorite works of Cassandra Wilson —Lizz isn't quite as smoldering but she's a lot more consistent. (jjhanson@att.net)

I love this album to pieces, its neo-soul/jazz/folk sound and Lizz's sultry voice. Check out her covers of "A Taste of Honey" and "Old Man." "Trouble" is another good track to start with. (JoAnn Whetsell)


The Orchard

Release info:

2008—Verve Forecast—B0010292-02

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Lizz Wright—vocals

Guest artists:

Chris Bruce—acoustic guitar (1, 5, 7-11); electric guitar (2, 6, 12); bass (1-4, 7, 9-11)
Toshi Reagon—acoustic guitar (1, 7, 10); backing vocals (3, 4, 6, 7, 10)
Oren Bloedow—acoustic guitar (11); electric guitar (1-3, 7, 9, 10); bass (5)
Kenny Banks—piano (1, 3)
Patrick Warren—keys (8-10, 12)
Larry Campbell—pedal steel (4); mandolin (10)
John Convertino—drums (1, 2, 5, 8, 9, 12); percussion (9); vibes (12)
Ben PErowsky—drums (4)
Larry Eagle—drums (3, 7, 9, 11); percussion (10)
Joey Burns—acoustic guitar (2, 9); bass (12); quarto (2); baritone guitar (8); cello (10)
Catherine Russell—backing vocals (2, 3, 7)
Josette Newsam—backing vocals (4)
Marc Anthony Thomspon aka Chocolate Genius—backing vocals (8)
The Southside Horns (Jacob Valenzuela & Martin wenk)—trumpets (11)

Produced by:

Craig Street

Comments:

Another excellent album, and perhaps her most musically eclectic to date. More pop/rock here. The songs written with Toshi Reagon are wonderful, and her version of Sweet Honey in the Rock's "Hey Mann" is fantastic, probably my favorite song on the album. She also does a credible cover of Led Zeppelin's "Thank You" (I especially like the end) though I prefer Tori's version. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Fellowship

Release info:

2010—Verve Forecast—B0014673-02

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Medium

Group members:

Lizz Wright—vocals; handjive loop (9)

Guest artists:

Glen Patscha—keyboards (1); Fender Rhodes (1, 3, 4, 10); Hammon B3 (2-4); Wurlitzer (2); piano (3); steel Wurlitzer (8); pump organ (8)
Me'Shell N'Degeocello—bass (1, 10)
Rocky Bryant—drums (1, 3, 4, 10)
Oren Bloedow—guitar (1, 3, 10)
Joan Wasser—violin/background vocals (1, 3)
Nic D'Amato—bass (2, 8)
Alfredo 'Catfish' Alias—drums (2)
Robin Macatangay—guitar (2)
Marvin Sewell—guitar (2, 8, 9, 12); ebo (7); slide guitar (7, 9)
Fred Walcott—percussion (2); shaker (8)
Todd Sickafoose—acoustic bass (3)
Bernice Johnson Reagon—background vocals (3, 5); arranger (5)
Toshi Reagon—background vocals (1, 3, 6); arranger (1, 4)
Kenny Banks—piano (4, 5); background vocals (6); arranger (4, 5)
Mimi Jones—acoustic bass (4)
Angélique Kidjo—vocals (7, 11)
Nacho Arimany—percussion (7, 11); cajŚn (9); tambourine (9)
Dave Cook—piano (8)
Jano Rix—drums (8)
Josette Newsam-Marchak—background vocals (1, 4, 6)
God Specializes/ Sweeping Through the City Choir (Jason C. Walker, Randy Jeter, Karma M. Johnson, Marcelle Davies-Lashley, Josette Newsam-Marchak)—vocals (4, 6)

Album Produced by:

Brian Bacchus

Individual Tracks Produced by:

Toshi Reagon (1, 3, 10); Brian Bacchus and Toshi Reagon (4, 5)

Comments:

Fellowship is being hailed as Lizz Wright's gospel album, or return to her gospel roots, but it's not a conventional African-American gospel album, either musically or lyrically. Though there are some traditional gospel tunes, the album as a whole could be considered more spiritual, kind of in the way that Patty Griffin's Downtown Church is. Lizz's voice is as powerful and gorgeous as ever, and the album mixes gospel, with jazz, blues, and folk, styles she's blended successfully on previous albums.
     But, for me, Fellowship misses. Admittedly, I don't like most gospel music (though I like some gospel-influenced songs), so it's no surprise my least favorite tracks are the most traditionally gospel ones. The album begins well, opening with the title song penned by Me'Shell N'Degeocello, a cover of Gladys Knight & the Pips' "(I've Got to Use My) Imagination," and the lovely "I Remember, I Believe" by Bernice Johnson Reagon. After three gospel tracks, it picks up again with "All the Seeds," a hauntingly beautiful but out-of-place interlude, and a great cover of Eric Clapton's "Presence of the Lord." The Jimi Hendrix and Joan as Police Woman covers ("In From the Storm" and "Feed the Light," respectively) are both bluesy, fine if unexceptional. Then there is another interlude co-written and featuring vocals by Angélique Kidjo, again, a track I really like but find out of place. Finally "Amazing Grace" is rendered dreary and boring; it seems to go on and on (All Music Guide reviewer William Ruhlmann calls it "ambient, funereal."
     Ruhlmann goes on in his review to say that, "[t]he disparate sources are united by Wright's distinctive and powerful alto voice, which anchors the music and provides a stylistic through-line, no matter what the nominal genre." My problem with the album is that I don't hear it that way; it seems disjointed to me, moving from style to style but lacking seamless connections. I think I will continue to enjoy several of the tracks here, but I doubt I will enjoy it as an album. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Freedom & Surrender

Release info:

2015—Concord Records—CRE-37220-02

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Lizz Wright—vocals, background vocals, handclaps

Guest artists:

Kenny Banks—Fender Rhodes (1, 3, 4, 11); Wurlitzer (2, 5, 7, 8); piano (2, 5, 9); handclaps (3); Hammond B-3 organ (12, 13)
Pete Kuzma—Hammond B-3 organ (1-9, 11); handclaps (3); Fender Rhodes (10); Wurlitzer (12, 13)
Dean Parks—electric guitar (1, 2, 5-11, 13); mandolin (2, 7); handclaps (3); nylon string guitar (4); acoustic guitar (7, 8); electric baritone guitar (12)
Dan Lutz—bass (1, 3-13); acoustic bass (2)
Vinnie Colaiuta—drums (all tracks); handclaps (3)
Pete Korpula—percussion (1-5, 7-9)
Jesse Harris—nylon string guitar (2)
Larry Klein—funk box (4, 11); keyboards (5); acoustic guitar (7); hand claps (8, 11)
Gregory Porter—vocals (5)
Till Brönner—flugelhorn (6)
Billy Childs—Fender Rhodes (10)

Produced by:

Larry Klein

Comments:

Lizz Wright's latest is a powerful album. Her voice is as wonderful as ever and can convey so many moods and emotions. There's more intensity, and sometimes even more sexiness, than on previous outings. There is much to love ("Somewhere Down the Mystic," "The New Game", "Freedom" especially) but there are also a couple of missteps ("Here and Now"; "Right Where You Are," the duet with Gregory Porter, which drags; and her cover of "River Man," which I don't love, though it's growing on me). The album is also a bit long (just over a full hour). Without the three above-mentioned tracks, it would have been pretty perfect, but overall this is a great effort. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Further info:

Compilation work includes:

  • "Reaching for the Moon" on the tribute album We All Love Ella: Celebrating the First Lady of Song (2007)
Collaborations include:

  • "...Till Then" with Danilo Perez on his album Till Then (2003)
  • "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" with David Sanborn on his album Closer (2005)
  • "Come Rain or Come Shine" with Toots Thielemans on his album One More for the Road (2006)
  • "Whispering Pines" with Jakob Dylan on the tribute album Endless Highway: The Music of The Band (2007)
  • "I Wish I Knew How It Feels to Be Free" with Takana Miyamoto on The Millennium Promise Jazz Project's Promises Made (2008)
  • "Nobody's Fault but Mine" with Meshell Ndegeocello on her album Pour une âme souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone (2012)


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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DISCLAIMER: Comments and reviews in the Ectophiles' Guide are excerpted from the ecto mailing list or volunteered by members of the list. They are the opinions of music enthusiasts, not professional music critics.

Entry last updated 2016-04-02 15:26:32.
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