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LIZZ WRIGHT has been the recipient of nonstop critical acclaim and ever-increasing audiences ever since her Verve debut, Salt, in 2003. Her much-noted debut performance in a Hollywood Bowl celebration of Billie Holiday led to esteemed appearances around the world.
But she’s confounded expectations along the way about what should be expected of an artist who’s known for topping the jazz charts but is far from most people’s ideas of a traditional jazz singer.
She continues her genre-defying musical journey with her recent album Fellowship, a nod to her roots in gospel on the one hand and her gospel of eclecticism on the other. Wright grew up singing in the church (she is the daughter of a Georgia pastor), and the album borrows from the decidedly secular catalogs of Me’Shell N’Degeocello, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Gladys Knight, topped by even more modern material from Joan Wasser of the indie-rock act Joan as Police Woman.
Growing up in the Pentecostal church, Wright wasn’t allowed to listen to popular music. Oddly – or maybe serendipitously – the historic night when she really made the leap from her early musical life to her present one involved putting a “secular” spin on a spiritual.
“I sang ‘Amazing Grace’ – but as a blues. This song that I had known all my life just came roaring out of me with anger and sadness and all my curiosity…The funny thing about the transition from only gospel to jazz is that I felt that jazz had a familiar sacredness to it. In all of my adventures in music, I’ve been drawn in by sparks of the familiar inside of the unfamiliar.”