Lizz Wright, Friday, April 12, 8:30pm, It's A Breeze and Hawk Haven Vineyard Stage in Cape May Convention Hall

The Story

One of the most celebrated singers on the current jazz scene, Georgia-born singer Lizz Wright brings an uncanny soulfulness and effortless sense of swing to the bandstand every time she performs. The New York Times described her inimitable voice as “a smooth, dark alto possessed of qualities you might associate with barrel-aged bourbon or butter-soft leather” while noted jazz critic Nate Chinen wrote: “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.”

She brings those alluring qualities to bear on the rootsy, Joe Henry-produced Grace, her latest album on the Concord label which summons her Southern heritage and gospel roots on Thomas A. Dorsey’s “Singing in My Soul,” “Stars Fell on Alabama,” Bob Dylan’s “Every Grain of Sand” along with an interpretation of the Nina Simone ballad “Seems I’m Never Tired Lovin’ You” and a gentle rendering of Allen Toussaint’s classic “Southern Nights.” 

Born on Jan. 22, 1980 in the small town of Hahira, Georgia, Wright was one of three sisters and the daughter of minister and musical director of their church. She later studied singing at Georgia State University in Atlanta and pursued her interest in jazz at The New School in New York. 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 and released Salt, which topped Billboard’s contemporary jazz charts. Her subsequent albums — 2005’s Dreaming Wide Awake, 2008’s The Orchard, 2010’s gospel-tinged Fellowship and 2015’s Freedom & Surrender — continued to top the charts and draw rave reviews from critics at NPR, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Jazz Times and Down Beat.

The Sound

The Wall Street Journal described Wright’s exquisite style as “mature, high-minded pop heavily shaded by R&B and the blues,” adding that, “The hook is her voice, which is assertive and seductive, confident yet cordial and always refined, even when she shifts to a husky, earthy tone bringing to mind Odetta and Joan Armatrading.” Her depth of soul is transcendent.

When & Where

It’s A Breeze and Hawk Haven Vineyard Stage in Cape May Convention Hall, Friday, April 12 at 8:30pm

Blake Haney