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Lizz Wright's vocalese is an illuminating experience

Lizz Wright currently stands as one of jazz's most profound new voices of the 21st century. Her debut release in 2003 entitled "Salt" on the Verve Record Label has received considerable acclaim and continues to surprise anyone within earshot of her sound. Her ability to captivate audiences with her gospel-oriented roots has shed new light on vocal jazz as a whole. In a genre that is often filled with mediocrity, Lizz Wright provides an opportunity for a fresh new look at female vocalists, some of which can best be described as bland at best. For a city such as Houston, bringing jazz as a form of entertainment is a hit or miss proposition; however, the debut appearance of Lizz Wright on January 28th can be considered as an unqualified success by any measure.

Da Camera of Houston, one of the city's premier arts organizations brought Lizz Wright to Houston as a part of their annual jazz series. Although Houston is slow in its support of jazz related events, Da Camera has been extremely successful in presenting jazz for more than 15 years. In the past, they have brought the likes of Dee Dee Bridgewater, Danilo Perez, Jason Moran, Kurt Elling, Stefon Harris and a host of other notable artists. Ms. Wright's appearance by all measures was another great addition to Da Camera's resume. For more than an hour and many minutes, Lizz Wright introduced herself to patrons of Da Camera of Houston. For those individuals who were unfamiliar with this impeccable lady of song, they left the Wortham Theater Center with a renewed sense of appreciation for vocal jazz, especially the type offered by female singers. The 25-year-old native from Hahira, Georgia was unpretentious in her performance. It was simplistic, sensual, spiritual and dynamic in approach, while also providing an aire of sensibility in a precise and expressive manner. Lizz has the ability to mesmerize audiences with sultry lyrical illuminations. Although she has a style that is pure Lizz Wright, she is as effervescent as Nneena Freelon and as introspective as Carmen McRae and Sarah Vaughan. At various times, any number of influences could be envisioned, including those of Tracy Chapman.

Lizz Wright provided a nonstop performance with little opportunity for mindless banter. Instead of talking and to the delight of her audience, she chose to sing until she could do no more, even to the point of hoarseness. She covered Flora Purim's soul-stirring "Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly" written by Chick Corea and Neville Potter, as well as a host of new offerings to be heard on her sophomore effort due out in the spring. As the daughter of minister who has been singing since the age of three, Lizz Wright's gospel background was very apparent in the moving "Blackberry." Also in attendance during her performance was her cadre of merrymen consisting of Aaron Parks on piano, Jeffrey Haynes on percussion and Mike Moreno on guitar. What was just as enlightening was the addition of Moreno to the group, he is a Houston native and a product of Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. He along with Haynes and Parks provided some highly stylized harmonies to Lizz's soothing melodies. As another recognized talent from Houston, Mike Moreno is one of many stellar talents providing instrumental genius to the professional ranks of jazz. In this particular case, the skills provided to those of Haynes and Parks were very complimentary to Ms. Wright's overall performance.

In a sea of mediocre female vocalists who wow us with unqualified chatter, Lizz Wright provides freshness, sensuality, spirituality and a new perspective on jazz for a countless number of jazz beginners and connoisseurs alike. Her performance in Houston gave new hope for jazz hungry refugees. Da Camera of Houston's ability to bring the best available talent to the city in an artistic setting provides a much needed boost to the overall jazz scene. In fact, it can be said that Da Camera's Jazz Series is the glue that adds credence to the genre that has been credited as "America's most original art form." Lizz Wright is just another jewel in the crown of everything that is impressive about jazz as a whole.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Lizz Wright
  • Concert Date: 1/28/2005
  • Subtitle: Lizz is a voice activated spiritual energy ray
  • Venue: Wortham Theater Center
  • City State Country: Houston, Texas, United States
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