THE SERBIAN NATIONAL THEATRE, great hall, 8pm
Saturday, 16th November 2019
Lizz Wright, voice
David Cook, keyboards; Adam Levy, guitar
Ben Zwerin, double bass; Michael J. Moore, drums
Acclaimed vocalist Lizz Wright is a steward of American music bringing brilliant color and vibrancy to singular original works and compositions by some of the greatest songwriters of our time. Wright has garnered widespread attention as one of the most venerable popular singers of her generation through the release of five critically acclaimed albums. From her breakout Verve debut album Salt to her forthcoming album Grace on Concord Records, Wright lives life filled with beautiful possibilities centered on the power of song.
Through an inimitable voice that The New York Times touts as, a smooth, dark alto possessed of qualities you might associate with barrel-aged bourbon or butter-soft leather, Wright sings with a soaring reflection of the cultural fabric of America. She lies beneath the script of human history transcending social divides with an offer of love and deep sense of humanity. Her music accepts the beauty of reality and a collective experience of belonging. For the listener, Wright’s songs embody a tradition that allows us to always feel at home, wherever we might be physically or emotionally.
Wright culls inspiration from her Southern upbringing in Georgia where she was the musical director of a small church in which her father was the pastor. Gospel music, and the call and response singing with the church congregation, informed her first brushes with music. Singing classical repertoire with Dr. Dwight Coleman while attending Georgia State University (Atlanta), studying jazz and spirituals with Dr. Richard Harper of The New School (New York), personal study of the folk tradition, and traversing through the Great American Songbook all fostered a keen interest to discover her own voice across diverse genres.
At the age of 22, Wright made a name for herself nationally as a vocalist with a touring concert tribute to Billie Holiday, where her poised performance stole the show. At 23, she signed with Verve Records for the release of Salt, which topped Billboard’s contemporary jazz charts. Her subsequent albums (Dreaming Wide Awake, The Orchard, Fellowship, and 2015’s Freedom & Surrender) continued to top the charts and her latest single Lean In (from Freedom & Surrender) landed on President Obama’s 2016 Summer Playlist. NPR critic Ann Powers included Freedom & Surrender on her list of Favorite Albums in 2015, and the album has received rave reviews from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and many other publications.
Dedication to the long form and the cultivation of a balanced life with strong roots has brought Wright from New York City to the countryside outside of Asheville, North Carolina. A respite from the bustling city streets, the beautiful mountain woods provide the perfect backdrop for her writing. Rustic hikes and river swimming, living amongst lovers of the land, growing essential foods in the garden, and harnessing an appreciation for the earth. Wright lives and breathes with the freshness of the country air. In turn, her music remains vital and dynamic growing along with nature’s elements.
Wright’s full-length studio recording Grace reveals the web of deep running roots of story and song that bind together the vastly diverse traditions that are the soul of the American South. Produced by Americana icon Joe Henry, Grace features an expansive collection of 10 covers and an original co-write with Maia Sharp. Wright offers singular arrangements of music by Ray Charles, Allen Toussaint, Nina Simone, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, k.d. lang, Bob Dylan, Frank Perkins and Mitchell Parish, as well as emerging artists Rose Cousins and Birds of Chicago.
Grace, Wright’s national release on Concord Records, was released Friday, September 15, 2017.
-She talks in the same way that she sings—with an engaging openness and warmth. (Downbeat)
-Grace named one of the New York Times’ Best of the Year, 2017
-…the guiding force is her effortlessly capacious voice, both whispery and resounding. Ms. Wright conveys a bird’s-eye command, hitting her notes precisely and illuminating even the space around them with a ruby glow. (New York Times)
-Lizz Wright is well acquainted with the storytelling power of a journey. Her music, rooted in the gospel truths and rustic byways of this country, could be seen as a sustained meditation on movement: not just the flow of bodies in rapturous rhythm, but also the trajectories that mark a life story. (NPR)
-Wright has emerged as the doyenne of current jazz singers, able to inhabit and transform songs from disparate genres. Grace is her homage to her native south (she grew up a minister’s daughter in Georgia), though its songs have diverse sources…a potent brew. (The Guardian, UK)
-Wright translates with phenomenal fluency between inner awareness and outward demonstration, individual seeking and conscious communion, ecstasy and empathy…[These are] scenes of contemplative luxuriance. (NPR)
Lauded American singer Lizz Wright’s latest project, Grace, reveals the web of deep-running roots of story and song that bind together the vastly diverse traditions that are the soul of the American South. Wright summons her Southern heritage and the spirit of the earth to usher us into a nurturing space that pulses and hums with the unspoken suggestion that grace is a cornerstone of our original state of being.
Produced by acclaimed singer and songwriter Joe Henry, Grace is a stark reflection of Wright’s sense of place and belonging that’s deeply woven into the cultural fabric of America. Grace is set for release on Concord Records on Friday, September 15, 2017.
Grace was tracked live on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles alongside a standout cast of musicians at United Recording Studios – the sessions feature her nearly 20-year collaboration with Atlanta-based pianist and choir director Kenny Banks Sr., special guest guitarist Marc Ribot, bassist David Piltch, guitarists Chris Bruce and Marvin Sewell, drummer Jay Bellerose, and keyboardist Patrick Warren. An expansive collection of 10 songs and an original co-write with Maia Sharp (All the Way Here), Grace is Wright’s testament of devotion to speaking and embodying the fullness of her humanity through music. Her most clear statement to date, Grace finds Wright standing center stage in the complex dialogues of coexistence and interdependence between all walks of life.
On Grace, the warm and weathered colors of her voice speak with assurance that she is a tireless steward of freedom and change. Leaning into curated classics and contemporary covers, Wright pierces form with gentle and unfettered individuality. By virtue of the bold arrangements, Wright and the musicians depict an unencumbered enclave where grace sparks a feeling of exploration and leads to the discovery of an umbilical place of trust that must be uncovered.
The vast landscapes portrayed on Grace are brimming with Wright’s singular translations of music by Ray Charles, Allen Toussaint, Nina Simone, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, k.d. lang, Bob Dylan, Frank Perkins and Mitchell Parish, as well as emerging artists Rose Cousins and Birds of Chicago. From a body of about 70 covers collected primarily by Joe Henry, 10 works were selected that mirror Wright’s rural upbringing and the trail of stories and songs that have brought her to the world stage. Having a strong sense of intention to speak of grace from the inception of the project, Wright forwent writing the title track after hearing Grace by Rose Cousins – the first title track Wright didn’t compose from her catalogue of six studio recordings.
Lizz Wright and I have been friends for nearly fifteen years; I’ve hungered for the chance to stand in service to her as she sang, so powerful do I find the expression of her humanity, says Joe Henry. It was and remains an honor to have been Lizz’s scout along the journey of Grace. And in such dark times, we are all as musicians called to answer brutality with wild and inclusive beauty. When Lizz now sings, I am allowed to feel by extension that I am doing something of my part. What a gift that has been to me; what a gift she offers all.
Grace is a homecoming for Wright; a rite of passage that traces the landscape between her Blue Ridge Mountains home and the storied lands of her family in central and South Georgia and along the Georgia Sea Islands.
For her return, Wright and photographer Jesse Kitt set out on a seminal road trip. The two women course down rural pathways to chronicle a myriad of the kinds of places and faces that encompass the album Grace. Kitt beautifully documented Wright’s reunions with family members, neighbors, mentors and encounters with strangers. In an effort to hear the true voice of the south at this moment for themselves, they rambled along farmlands, back porches, sandy beaches, and the bustling Atlanta streets as Wright conversed with the people. She and Kenny Banks Sr. also recorded with a choir featuring powerful singers from Atlanta’s local churches for three songs on Grace (Grace, What Would I Do, Seems I’m Never Tired Lovin’ You).
Grace is a proclamation to unearth our fundamental kindness and generosity. It sets forth a real invitation to openly contemplate our humanity. In her commitment to foster a more courageous, equal and tolerant society, Wright is plugged into several programs and endeavors that call for her engagement as a song and essay writer, a board member and a storyteller. From the experience of the humble country dinner with her friends and neighbors in the mountains, Wright is reminded of the impact of simple acts of sharing each other’s presence, without agenda. She realizes the meaningful and effective work of just being a good neighbor. Within these small and common gestures is a model of effectiveness for every large endeavor and project for social change.
In this day it’s nearly a revolutionary act to stand deep in unconditional love, to abide in fearless belonging and to embrace our inescapable tenderness, says Lizz Wright.