A New Queen Of Song
REVIEW by Willard Manus

Remember the name, Lizz Wright. The 23-year-old singer/vocalist, who just released her debut album, SALT, is the next queen of song.

With her exquisite voice, deepfelt affirmation of life and love, and skill at writing lyrics, Wright looks a sure bet to don the mantle worn by the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Diane Krall.

A Georgia native, Wright is a minister's daughter who started out singing gospel in church. She shows those roots on one of the SALT'S twelve cuts, "Walk With Me, Lord." Backed by Kenny Banks on the Hammond B-3 and John Hart's acoustic guitar, Wright delivers a soulful rendition of this sacred tune. No shouting, no raucous rocking, just her rich, warm, creamy voice running up and down the scales as she delivers an impassioned cry for help with simplicity and sincerity.

Wright also wrote five of the songs on the Verve release, all of which reflect her positive (but never smarmy) feelings about life, nature and the mysteries and rewards of love. Ballad singing seems to be her strength, but she also shows an appreciation of Latin jazz (and her African roots) on "Afro Blue," the classic Mongo Santamaria tune. Terreon Gully and Jeff Haynes supply the Latin percussion, Danilo Perez the understated but effective piano.

Tommy LiPuma, Brian Blade and Jon Cowherd (the latter two also back Wright up on drums and piano, respectively) produced the CD with much skill and care, allowing Lizz Wright's remarkable qualities as a singer to shine through.