SFJAZZ.org | 5 Things Lizz Wright

On The Corner Masthead

5 things you should know about
Lizz Wright

August 22, 2023 | by Rusty Aceves

Lizz Wright

The amazing vocalist Lizz Wright kicks off SFJAZZ’s 2023-24 Season with four nights of performances, 9/7–10. To get you up to speed, here are five things you should know before the shows!

  1. She was brought up in a musical household. Born the small southern Georgia town of Hahira, Wright is the daughter of a minister and ecclesiastical music director who instilled a love of music in her from her childhood. Her musical journey began in the church, where she sang gospel and played piano from a young age. Concentrating specifically on choral work, she won the National School Choral Award and studied voice at Atlanta’s Georgia State University before relocating to New York for studies at The New School’s Mannes School of Music.
  2. She has a long history of collaboration. Beyond her work as a solo artist and bandleader, Wright has lent her earthy, luminous voice to a variety of projects as a guest and collaborator. She made her recording debut on keyboard icon Joe Sample’s 2002 release The Pecan Tree, and has recorded and performed with Danilo Pérez, Terri Lyne Carrington’s Mosaic Project, Toots Thielemans, the WDR Big Band, fellow 2023-24 Season performers Ledisi and Meshell Ndegeocello, Gregory Porter, José James, and SFJAZZ Collective drummer Kendrick Scott, among others.
  3. She’s released seven acclaimed albums. Wright made an auspicious solo debut with her 2003 Verve session Salt, a remarkably self-assured first statement that featured a beguiling take on Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue” along with a title track that would become her signature song. Her follow-up, 2005’s Dreaming Wide Awake, hit #1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart. She recorded two further sessions for Verve, 2008’s The Orchard and 2010’s standout Fellowship, before moving to Concord Records for the Joe Henry-produced Freedom and Surrender in 2015 — her first new album in five years. After moving to Chicago, she recorded 2018’s masterful, gospel-inflected Grace — her second and final release with Concord — and 2022 brought Holding Space, recorded in Berlin during the Grace tour and the inaugural album from Wright’s own Blues & Greens Records label.
  4. She’s an accomplished chef and restaurant owner. An avid cook from the time of her youth, Wright is a 2009 graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education’s Natural Gourmet Institute in Manhattan and is chef and co-owner of Carver 49 on the South Side of Chicago. When the pandemic made live music impossible, Wright put her efforts into developing the business with her wife, arts administrator Monica Haslip, focused on healthy food and drink with ties to her southern roots. In Wright’s words, "food is an opportunity to reconnect with Nature and one another. My vision is to transfer that feeling of trust, belonging and love from nature to the plate."
  5. Her new album will be released next year. Wright returns to SFJAZZ to kick off the 2023-24 Season, performing music from her momentous career and highlighting songs from her upcoming Blues & Greens release Shadow — her first studio album for her own label and first recording of new music in five years.

For more information about Lizz and her career, please read Richard Scheinin’s recent in-depth article and interview: Lizz Wright: Feeding the Soul.

Lizz Wright performs four concert to kick off SFJAZZ's 2023–24 Season, 9/7–10. Tickets are available here.

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