SJFAZZ At Home On-Demand • Lizz Wright

Lizz Wright

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originally filmed on SEP 8, 2023

Lizz Wright: Feeding The Soul

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Lizz Wright


August 4, 2023 | by Richard Scheinin

Lizz Wright’s voice is a thing of beauty. It is a call to attention. You hear it — one word is all it takes — and you really listen.

Raised in rural Georgia, the daughter of a minister, she serves up a deep amalgam of gospel, folk, soul, and jazz. When she describes her music and its function, she uses words like “healing,” “nourishment,” and “service”: “You sing to hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people — complete strangers,” she says, speaking by phone from her home in Chicago. “But for me, it’s not just a business. It’s a relationship. It’s really about communion; I find we all need the relief of music.”

When SFJAZZ decided on an opening act for its 2023-24 season, it awarded the honors to Wright, who will perform four shows (Sept. 7-10) in Miner Auditorium. Her repertoire is rich; she may offer a traditional Black spiritual or Neil Young’s “Old Man” or Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights,” which she transforms, delivering it as a slow enchantment. In San Francisco, with her simpatico band, she will preview tunes from her upcoming album, titled Shadow. Due for release next year, it runs the gamut from Cole Porter’s “I Concentrate on You” to a blues by Americana singer-songwriter Caitlin Canty (“Lost in the Valley”) to a relaxed, house-like dance number (“Sweetness”) that Wright co-composed with producer Chris Bruce and drummer Jack DeBoe.

She will release the album, her eighth, on her own Blues & Greens record label; its name is another nod toward the notion that music is nourishment, food for the soul. For Wright, that notion holds particular meaning: In 2017, with her wife Monica Haslip, a Chicago arts administrator, she opened a cafe called Carver 47 (named for George Washington Carver) and has managed it, designed its healthy, Southern-inspired cuisine, and been its chef ever since. (The “47” has twofold meaning; Carver taught at the Tuskegee Institute for 47 years, and the cafe is just off the corner of 47th and Greenwood.) She grew up cooking (and singing) with her family in Hahira, Georgia, graduated in 2009 from New York’s Natural Gourmet Institute, and seems not to think it very unusual that a globe-trotting singer should also be the chef of a neighborhood cafe. Life takes shape, she says, when you “allow the thread to reveal itself.”


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