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
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"
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.
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."
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
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
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."
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.
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