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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Jazz inspired Lizz Wright

Jazz inspired Lizz Wright Posted on Fri, Sep. 16, 2005

Jazz inspired Lizz Wright
Singer, acoustic guitarist brings a unique sound to Spirit Square
Pop Culture Writer

Lizz Wright fell in love with jazz as a student at Georgia State University, but she fell in love with herself as a touring musician.

Her newfound love reveals itself on her sophomore album "Dreaming Wide Awake," an acoustic guitar-driven disc more in the tradition of Americana singer/songwriters than jazz.

And that's fine with Wright, who never considered herself to be a jazz singer in the first place. Don't get it twisted -- Wright likes jazz, but she just doesn't sing in the traditional sense of standards.

"Jazz really opened my mind," said Wright, who performs at the McGlohon Theatre in Spirit Square on Saturday. "When I was studying at Georgia State, I thought, `I don't really sing like that, but I love it.' "

The 25-year-old is one of those below-the-radar artists critics love. Wright's debut disc, "Salt," is the kind that gets passed around on burned CDs because people hear about her from a friend who loves the disc. It's a blend of folksy, acoustic jazz rearrangements of songs, including "Soon as I Get Home" from "The Wiz," Neil Young's rock classic "Old Man," and a handful of Wright's work.

She often sings about perseverance, hope, loving your fellow human. And yet, Wright is too spunky for folk and not incense enough for neo-soul, so with her short-cropped natural hair and lack of "loving my man" songs, Wright's music could only fall into one category: jazz

And that bothers her. Wright loves jazz, but sees herself on a musical journey that doesn't easily fit into one box.

On her first album, Wright was tiptoeing into the music industry. She worked with three different producers. She'd studied jazz in college, so the album was an outgrowth of her fascination with the genre, but she still put her own spin on the tunes.

"Dreaming Wide Awake" is more introspective and reflects her broad interests, which include country.

"I wanted to make the record that I really listened to," Wright said. "I got pigeonholed as a jazz artist. It makes me wonder whether people see themselves in these categories."

The singer is still discovering how she sees herself. Endless hours of self-examination while touring inspired "Dreaming."

"I'm finally starting to mature a little bit," she said. "I finally feel more defined as a person. I feel like a stone that's been shaped by the river."

Wright initially worried her new disc would alienate her jazz fans. Now, she trusts her feelings.

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