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Lizz Wright: Worth Her Salt

LIzz Wright
Lizz Wright

The jazz world crowned Lizz Wright a bright new talent after her impressive 2003 debut, Salt (Verve). Sure, the CD boasted top-tier jazz accompaniment from Danilo Perez, Chris Potter and Brian Blade, among others. And there was pliancy in her voice that suggests jazz. But she didn’t concern herself with twisting it into vocalese contortions like most aspiring jazz singers; and as a songwriter, she didn’t seem terribly interested in penning loose improvisational vehicles.

While Wright doesn’t totally reinvent herself with Dreaming Wide Awake, she distances herself even further from conventional jazz. The rhythms shuffle and saunter more than swing, and the songs emphasize succinct pop melodicism and late-night neosoul. Wright also detours from the Great American Songbook, favoring tunes penned by Joe Henry, Ella Jenkins, Neil Young and Chocolate Genius. She’s also cowritten a handful of noteworthy originals with Toshi Reagon, Jesse Harris and Carlos Henderson. Dreaming Wide Awake is one of those albums that could either draw a sizeable audience from the jazz, pop, R&B and folk worlds-or edge Wright toward the margins of all of them. “I still feel like I’m being discovered,” she says. “It’s just like a long beginning.”

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