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Lizz Wright | Features

Artist Of The Month


The Salt that's in the stew
Lizz Wright

What a difference a day makes. On July 11, 2002, Lizz Wright was just another unknown singer on the bill of a Billie Holiday tribute concert at Chicago's Orchestra Hall. Twenty-four hours later, a new star is born as Wrights mellifluously soulful renditions of "I Cover the Waterfront" and "Don't explain" leave the packed house starry-eyed.

A week later at the Los Angeles Holiday tribute at the Hollywood Bowl, Wright stole the spotlight again. "The real surprise of the evening" according to veteran Los Angeles Times jazz critic Don Heckman, was "Lizz Wright making her California debut [offering] convincing evidence of her potential as a new jazz vocal star. Slender and dark-eyed, with a radiant sense of self-confidence, she sings with an articulate maturity that surpasses her youth"

Lizz Wright's debut, Salt, was co-produced by industry legend Tommy LiPuma, top jazz drummer/composer Brian Blade and aranger Jon Cowherd. Salt's eclectic blend of jazz/pop standards, Lizz Wright's original.

Lizz has been named one of the 10 Women to Watch in 2003 by Women Who Rock Magazine.

Lizz Wright was born on January 22, 1980 in Hahira, Georgia, the youngest of three siblings whose father was a minister and whose mother sang gospel at his services. "I've been singing in church since I was six - I was drafted into it," laughs Lizz. "My brother and sister and I used to sing as a trio when my dad would preach. If we weren't at home doing homework or chores, we were in the car with our parents and on the way to church and different revivals." By the age of fourteen, she taught herself piano well enough to "help my dad in church by playing a little bit."

Houston County High School broadened Wright's musical horizon. "I was in several choirs," she recalls. "I would sing in duet and quartet groups as well. We won several regional and state medals. In my last year, I won a National Choral Award." During this period she also discovered jazz, via Marian McPartland's NPR jazz program.

After graduating high school, she enrolled at Georgia State University in Atlanta. "My major was music performance; I only did one year. When you have a major in vocal performance, you pretty much have to study classical. There wasn't a vocal jazz program and I didn't want to do classical. So on the side I would work with small jazz combos so I could learn standards. That's what I really wanted to do."

In the summer of '98, Lizz relocated 200 miles south to Macon. It was a turning point. "I worked for awhile, and lived by myself. I figured out what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it. I would drive two hours several nights a week to Atlanta just to sit down and hear some jazz. After a bit, I was sitting in at jam sessions." It was at a '99 jam session at Churchill Grounds that Lizz Wright was "discovered" and invited to join the Atlanta band In the Spirit. Within a year's time, Creative Loafing, Atlanta's alternative newspaper, anointed In the Spirit the best jazz group in Atlanta and said of Lizz Wright: "Wright is truly a singer's singer. Her beautiful tone and exquisite phrasing . . . point to the fact that Ms. Wright may well be Ms. Right. She has it all."

Throughout its history, Verve has particularly excelled in recording many of the fiercest chanteuses on the planet: Billie, Ella, Sarah, Dinah, Nina, Betty, Abbey, Shirley, Dee Dee, Cassandra, Diana, Natalie - so off-the-iconoclastic-genius-meter that they are referred to on a first-name basis. These are the rare ones who could sing anything - jazz to blues to pop - and who owned everything they sang.

It's 2003 and fierce young chanteuses are hard to find, so Lizz Wright's Verve debut is especially encouraging. Though justifiably proud of what has been accomplished so far, she aspires to a higher calling. "Music is my opportunity to let myself remember my spirit. I think of Billie Holiday and Abbey Lincoln - what it means to be a singer. When you address and share your humanity, you really are close to people in a universal sense." Salt - the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Better get used to calling her just "Lizz."

Lizz Wright - Salt Track Listing:
1. Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly
2. Salt
3. Afro Blue
4. Soon As I Get Home
5. Walk With Me, Lord
6. Eternity

7. Goodbye
8. Vocalise/End Of The Line
9. Fire
10. Blue Rose
11. Lead The Way
12. Silence
Lizz - The Official Artist Web Site
Verve records, Lizz Wright's record label