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Lizz Wright has been charming music fans worldwide ever since she appeared on the late pianist and composer Joe Sample’s 2002 disc, The Pecan Tree (Verve). The following year, she gained even wider recognition for her critically acclaimed debut record, Salt (Verve). Produced by the legendary Tommy LiPuma – best known for his award-winning work with George Benson, Diana Krall, and Natalie Cole – the album helped introduce one of the most captivating female vocalists of her generation as it raced to number two on Billboard’s “Top Contemporary Jazz” chart.
Wright was born in the small town of Hahira, Georgia. A preacher’s kid, she sang during most services, and it is there, deep in the joy of ministry, that one can find the roots of the voice and spirit that so captivates listeners. With peculiar focus, she seamlessly weaves through the genres of gospel, jazz, folk, pop, and blues, handling them like colors on a palette. Ultimately, it is the voice, the stories told and the call to connect that transcend categorization and stir her audiences.
Wright’s next two records, Dreaming Wide Awake (Verve, 2005) and The Orchard (2008), saw her continue to grow artistically, as she delved deeper into songwriting. For these records, she teamed with noted producer Craig Street, who in turn recruited a cadre of eclectic songwriters - Toshi Reagon, Jesse Harris, John Leventhal - to co-write original songs; she also explored and reinterpreted the exciting repertoire of Chocolate Genius, Joe Henry, and Neil Young, among others. The tune “Hit The Ground,” was an indication of Wright’s evolution as a storyteller, and it helped propel Dreaming Wide Awake to number one on Billboard’s “Top Contemporary Jazz” chart.
Wright’s 2010 disc, Fellowship (Verve), found her drawing deeply from the wellspring of her years singing in church. She delivered poignant readings of gospel classics such as “God Specializes,” “Sweeping Through the City,” and “Amazing Grace.” Still, Wright didn’t stick too rigidly to traditional gospel material. Her broad perspective and a desire to tell her story allowed her to find the spiritual in comparatively secular material like Gerry Goffin and Barry Goldberg’s “(I’ve Got to Use My) Imagination” – a big hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips – Jimi Hendrix’s “In From the Storm,” and Meshell Ndegeocello and Bob Marley’s “Fellowship.”
In the years after Fellowship, Wright continued to tour extensively, and branched out musically with her studies of hand percussion, adding it into the live set to the rapturous approval of her fans. She sang “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” on Meshell Ndgeocello’s fascinating 2012 disc, Pour Une Âme Souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone. She also made several outstanding appearances with GRAMMY Award-winning drummer and bandleader, Terri Lyne Carrington, who features Wright on her 2015 Concord Records disc, Mosaic Project: LOVE and SOUL. “That called me to sing and improvise in new ways, which was really fun,” Wright says about her work with Carrington. Already a passionate cook and graduate from the Natural Gourmet Institute in NY, Wright broadened her horizons further by working on production teams for various festivals and events in her adopted state of North Carolina.
After releasing four acclaimed records for Verve, Wright moved to Concord Records to release her fifth disc, Freedom & Surrender. She recruited GRAMMY Award-winning producer, bassist and songwriter Larry Klein. The record features rich contributions from longtime collaborators Reagon and Harris, and new partnerships with David Batteau, J.D. Souther, and Maia Sharp, yielding captivating originals such as “Lean In,” “Real Life Painting” and “Right Where You Are,” featuring Gregory Porter. Equally admired as an interpreter of songs, Wright also turns her eyes towards Nick Drake’s “River Man,” the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody” and bonus track Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger’s “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face.”
The impressionable journey of making records and touring to support them ensures that no artist is the same for their fifth record as they were for their first. Wright’s soaring arc of growth and expanding expression has been the public weaving of an intricate and colorful tapestry. For her fifth project, supported by the brilliance, wisdom, and friendship of Klein, Wright’s own fulfillment and enjoyment from the process are evident. She is gifted with an extraordinary instrument, and Freedom & Surrender allows Wright to illuminate her dynamic soul through the layers of passion and playfulness found within the songs.
“This is Wright’s first album after a five-year hiatus during which she went through a divorce and moved from New York City to the South. With mostly original compositions and boisterous vocals, Wright takes the listener through her personal journey of independence.”
Lizz Wright at Cheltenham Town Hall – May 3, 2016, The Times
“Lizz Wright possesses one of the most beautiful voices around, regardless of category.”
Lizz Wright makes it plain and simple at AWC - New Pittsburgh Courier, April 17, 2016
"Singer-songwriter Lizz Wright came on stage at the August Wilson Center For African American Culture and just sang her heart out."
Jazz FM Awards 2016 nominees announced - Feb 24, 2016
Lizz Wright is nominated for Soul Artist of the Year at the 2016 Jazz FM Awards.
The message in her melody - Feb 10, 2016
"The Cape Town International Jazz Festival prides itself on putting together a line-up of both legends and legends-in-the-making. For the 16th annual festival, the idea is no different."
Black Grooves: Lizz Wright - Freedom & Surrender - Jan 4, 2016
"Lizz Wright’s newest album, Freedom & Surrender, is an eclectic collection of love songs. Pulling from jazz, rock, Americana, and blues, the album is a sexy, sleek, and mystical listening experience, but one grounded in quotidian honesty."
2016 Tucson Jazz Festival: Lizz Wright simply beautiful - Jan 26, 2015
JazzTimes Newsletter Sep 08, 2015
Official Website: www.lizzwright.net
- Salt (Verve, 2003)
- Dreaming Wide Awake (Verve, 2005)
- The Orchard (Verve, 2008)
- Fellowship (Verve, 2010)
“Wright has unequivocally delivered her best album yet” ****
— MOJO (UK)
— The New York Times
- NPR Songs We Love
“Wright has achieved and maintained critical success and a loyal following by being true to her soulful roots. However, that does not mean that Wright is incapable or unwilling to branch out. She is equally at ease in the church house, the country road, the club, the bedroom, and places a little more intimate and romantic. You can take Freedom & Surrender just about anywhere… and you will certainly want to. Highly Recommended.”
- Soul Tracks
“On each song Lizz Wright sings with the kind of depth and expressive resonance you’ll never forget. This album is her masterpiece and she sings each song with the awesome power of her God-given talents from start to finish”