I discovered an album a month or so ago, although I can’t really remember the circumstance. I think I was browsing either Amazon or the NPR Music site. I know I was surfing around for Catherine Russell tidbits. Catherine is among the artists on the record. Anyway, it’s an NPR vocal jazz compilation called The New Jazz Divas. It’s a fantastic collection. Highly recommended. It’s actually a few years old, from 2009. Many great singers, Madeleine Peyroux, Diana Krall, Esperanza Spalding, many great songs, but one in particular caught my attention, and it sent me on something of a journey.
I knew the song, “A Taste of Honey.” I was familiar with versions by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and of course the Beatles. But I had never heard it performed like this before. I learned the singer is Lizz Wright. What a voice. And what a performance. And it turned out she’s a native Georgian. Born in the small town of Hahira, the daughter of a minister and musical director, she sang in her church at an early age. She slowly became interested in jazz and blues. Later she lived in Atlanta where she attended Georgia State University.
A bit of research and I discovered her interpretation of “A Taste of Honey” first appeared on Dreaming Wide Awake, her sophomore release from 2005. Unlike the Divas album, Dreaming is available on Apple Music, so I quickly added it to my collection. While there are elements of jazz, it isn’t purely a jazz album. There are strong folk and blues influences as well. I discovered several other jewels on the album. There’s a cover of Neil Young’s “Old Man” and the Youngbloods’ “Get Together.” And there’s a haunting tune Lizz co-wrote with Jesse Harris called “Hit The Ground.” Lizz is a world-class talent. So fortunate to have discovered her. Why she isn’t a household name speaks to the insanity of the music industry. I look forward to exploring her other releases. And she has a new album entitled Grace slated for release on September 9.
Check out this live performance of “Old Man” from a few years back.