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Lizz Wright
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SALT (2003)
Salt - Click to view!If you're looking for something a little different to add to your musical menu, it's time to cook up something special. Turn the lights down low. Into the bowl throw equal parts sophistication and soul. Shake thoroughly to ensure it's mixed well. Toss with a whole lot of talent. Serve it plenty cool. Take a taste. If it seems like something's missing, Lizz Wright will tell you it's the Salt. Her debut album on Verve Records, it's the perfect spice to add to any musical taste. It might be a little misleading, though, to insinuate that this album has only one flavor, because it's more like the whole spice rack.

With a sound that is cooler than the other side of the pillow, this project makes a strong case that this classically trained vocalist is heiress-apparent to a long line of singers stretching back to the heyday of jazz. Her voice, while perhaps not possessing the range, at least makes a good approximation of Whitney Houston. But the delivery is more like Billie Holliday, or even Sarah Vaughn. A little throaty, a little sultry, but what is lacking in pure beauty is more than made up for by a control that grabs onto the listener and holds on tight.

The mix of this CD rightly makes Wright's voice the centerpiece. As enjoyable as that is, it's almost a shame as well. Backing her up are some musicians who are very accomplished in their own right. Among others, Brian Blade (critically acclaimed drummer), Denilo Perez (Grammy nominated pianist), and Chris Potter (saxophonist extraordinaire) have influenced this project, which was co-produced by Grammy winner Tommy LiPuma. Together, this team overwhelms the listener with a rich, clear sound that makes every note and nuance standout.

Though this is her debut, this twenty-something minister's daughter shows a level of maturity beyond what is expected of one so young. Of the twelve songs on the album, she wrote or co-wrote five. And in choosing songs to round out the album, she chooses wisely. Her covers of songs like "Afro Blue" and "Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly" fit perfectly with the mood and flow of the album. Like puzzle pieces, even the songs that might not fit at first glance slide perfectly into place. For example, the traditional-style song "Walk With Me, Lord" is given a subtle treatment such that it makes a seamless transition from secular to spiritual and back. Ms. Wright's soulful, heartfelt delivery is nowhere more appreciable than on a spectacular rendition of "Soon As I Get Home," which of course is from the score of The Wiz.

Though this album is not intended for Christians, per se, it has no objectionable themes. In fact, there are several songs that encourage people to think for themselves, and not be affected by those around them. Along with the above spiritual, there are also songs that speak of being saved by grace, and of praying for guidance.

If you are a jazz aficionado, you probably already know about Lizz Wright. If you don't know of her, turn in your credentials. But if you are new to jazz, or are looking for something a little different, Salt will definitely leave you thirsting for more.
- Scott Bush
January 2004

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