Lizz Wright: Hey Mann
Lizz Wright (vocals)
The Orchard (Verve 10292)
Lizz Wright (vocals),
Chris Bruce (bass), Toshi Reagon (vocals), Glenn Patscha (keyboards), Larry Campbell (pedal steel), Ben Perowsky (drums), Josette Newsam (vocals).
Composed by Bernice Johnson Reagon.
Recorded: New York and Arizona, no dates given (CD released in 2008)
Rating: 81/100 (learn more)
I first learned about this release when I saw it in a counter display at Starbucks. Way to go, Lizz! Too bad the music doesn't have a little more caffeine in it. With each passing release, Lizz Wright moves further and further away from jazz. On her 2003 CD Salt, Wright was covering compositions by Chick Corea, Brian Blade and Mongo Santamaria. In contrast, Wright opts for Led Zeppelin and Ike Turner - along with bunch of mostly forgettable originals - on this new release, strangely titled The Orchard (there is no song of that name on the disk). Wright still has a great voice, especially in the lower register, where she reminds me of Cassandra Wilson, another lady who can dip down into the baritone range to great effect. "Hey Mann" starts with a solo voice passage that shows off Wright's singing skills, but the energy level dissipates soon after the band enters. It's clear that Wright wants a crossover audience, and her talent is good enough to deliver it. But first she needs to find an orchard where she can pick some better material.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia