Lizz Wright - Garden Of Earthly Delights

When Lizz Wright debuted with Salt five years ago it was clear even then that the jazz world had found a new unique talent even if the album was ostensibly a strongly gospel-rooted affair. By the time of her second album Dreaming Wide Awake, when she was on the cover of Jazzwise for the first time, awash with arresting bottleneck backgrounds and intuitive acoustic and jazz-into-folk settings it was clear that new musical directions were being pursued and that she was becoming a significant jazz singer.
Lizz Wright - Garden Of Earthly Delights
A lone concert in London the day after the 7 July 2005 underground and bus bombings also confirmed her spirit and composure in difficult times. Nearly three years on, her third album The Orchard finds Wright working again with the celebrated producer Craig Street but this time co-writing with singer-songwriter Toshi Reagon. It marks a new chapter in her musical career as she explains in this remarkably frank interview with Andy Robson.

Wright, right now, is a shade discombobulated. “And then,” she is saying mid-flow, “at the end, they asked me to scat, and oh, could I really do that? I am not Ella!” At this, those normally molasses-rich southern tones tremble, just a little.

Wright at the time of speaking had just returned from rehearsals for the gala launch of the London Jazz Festival last autumn which was, of course, a tribute to the great Ella Fitzgerald. Wright can’t actually remember whom she lined up with; among the names she can’t recall are Ian Shaw, Claire Martin, Juliet Roberts and R&B star Jamelia. But then such is the life of the jet set jazz diva: she had only flown in that day before being whisked to, oh lucky girl, Watford, so she’s done well to remember she was meant to be Ella.

Over a camomile tea and a boiled sweet, however, Wright starts to chill, to recover that slow smiling, ever so controlled demeanour recognisable from her stage presence. “I’m happy to do an Ella tribute. Now I’ve done Billie, Nina Simone, and, um, Elton.” Savvy enough to know that as the protégée of a major international record label, Wright has a role to play stoking the star maker machinery behind the jazz song. If she has to pay tribute to the jazz gods, so be it. She sees the great singers of the jazz heritage as part of the grand continuum that includes pop, gospel and the blues. Unfortunately not everyone sees it that way. She says: “People want to forge me into their perspective and it’s like a really tight suit, uncomfortable to wear, I can’t move!”
This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #118 to read the full feature and receive a Free CD Subscribe Here...