The Musical Canvas of Lizz Wright
Writer Lara Piu
Photographer Jesse Kitt
I see myself much like a painter,” jazz artist Lizz Wright says about her work in a recent documentary.Her premiere composition and first album, “Salt,” soared to the number two spot on Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz list. Tommy LiPuma, the man behind the award-winning work of artists like George Benson, Diana Krall, and Natalie Cole, produced the album. Since then, Lizz released another four acclaimed albums: “Dreaming Wide Awake,” “The Orchard,” “Fellowship,” and “Freedom and Surrender.” They’re the stories of her life, she explains.
“If you look at the records I’ve made and really take them apart as elements, you start to think about the things that must have come together to create these things,” she explains. “I’ve arrived at a certain kind of eclecticism, which is actually just an honest picture of what my life is like and what my imagination is like.”
The artist now performs on the other side of several challenges: divorce, creative struggles, and feeling off-track. Then she nearly died in a car accident on an ice-coated mountain road.
“The heavy car floated silently toward a 75-foot ravine that ended with a wide band of a frozen creek,” Lizz recalls in a recent artist statement. “‘Ok,’ was the only thing I could get out in a sigh. I was stopped by a young bellwood tree that grew out of the bank like a hook. I slowed my breathing and meditated in suspension. About 20 minutes later, a young neighbor pulled the door open, reaching in with a strong arm to guide my climb out. Now when I sing the chorus, I see the gracious hole and the sweet sapling that grows over it. It threw me back, a fish returned to the river with a cut lip.”
The delicate pink flowers of the tree that saved her remind her of that day.
“They were strong enough to save me. In surrender I experience freedom,” she explains. “The gift of an end is a beginning. I greet the sun with the only reason I’ve ever needed: ‘Why not?’”
Her experiences inspired the songs she will sing in May, many coming from her latest album, “Freedom & Surrender,” often considered her sexiest, most sensual album yet. She wrote 10 of its 15 songs, six with Grammy Award-winning producer, bassist and songwriter Larry Klein and his longtime songwriting partner David Batteau. The trio wrote songs like the rocky, country-bluesy “The New Game,” “Here and Now,” inspired in part by the passing of Maya Angelou, and a tender ballad called “Blessed the Brave.”
Lizz will perform at MIM Monday, May 1 at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $48.50 – $63.50 and can be purchased on the MIM website. The music theater will host an additional four jazz artists in May: Anat Cohen & Trio Brasileiro on May 7, the John Pizzarelli Trio on May 12, René Marie on May 17, and Lisa Fischer on May 25.
Musical Instrument Museum
4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix
Monday, May 1
$48.50 – $63.50