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  • Leslye J Allen wrote on July 26, 2006 report

    Vincent Stephens hit the nail on the head when he suggested that experimentation is vital for new Jazz singers. I am particularly impressed with his acknowledgment of the "Folk" element found in Norah Jones, Lizz Wright, and Cassandra Wilson's song interpretations. It is also not an accident that all three of these women are from the American South.

    I remember the first time I heard Lizz Wright (a native of my native Georgia). I thought to myself,"she sounds like Georgia" as much as Wilson sounds "like Mississippi." Far from simply reintroducing nostalgic standards, Wright, Wilson, and Jones have recovered the somewhat lost art of reinventing standards and producing new ones. Anyone in ear shot of Lizz Wright's version of "I'm Confessin' That I Love You" is immediately struck with her unmistakable Jazz/Country approach to this classic. Wilson's languid reinterpretation of Glenn Campbell's Pop/Country classic "Wichita Lineman" is yet another example.

    Many of these younger artists are reluctant to label themselves "Jazz singers." And who can blame them?! In this global McMusic industry, an affiliation with a less-than-radio-friendly genre can and has stifled many careers. Yet Jazz singers do have an interpretive freedom that musicians do not since no music critic has ever been able to precisely define or reach consensus on what Jazz singing actually is. This is a good thing because Jazz can expand without losing its form.

    I remember Lizz Wright saying that she wrote the song "Hit the Ground" using the chord changes from "Amazing Grace." Music reviewers hailed her sophomore CD as a bit of a detour from her seemingly more Jazz-oriented debut CD. Yet all of them forgot (or never knew) that Jazz great Dizzy Gillespie composed his classic "Con Alma" using the chord changes from "All the Things You Are." Go figure?

    Beautiful and timely article!!