LIZZ WRIGHT: The Orchard (Label: Verve)

LIZZ WRIGHT: The Orchard

Lizz Wright, I’m told, is the darling of the Radio 2 Sunday morning jazz crew. Her last album, ‘Dreaming Wide Awake’ was espoused by Michael Parkinson, and Ms. Wright soon found herself in the same category as Norah Jones, Jamie Cullum and others of the Starbucks skinny latte and almond croissant brigade. However, though there are cuts here that are superficially light (‘Another Angel’ and ‘Speak Your Heart’ for instance), they’re outweighed by those with a true, soulful introspection. The opening track, ‘Coming Home’, is a good example. It’s a broody song and though not overtly gospel, its lyric and delivery betray the singer’s rural church roots. Blues roots are at the heart of the version of Ike Turner’s ‘I Idolize You’; the late night piano of Kenny Banks adding to the mood there. ‘My Heart’ has a real hard edge too and together, those three songs will surely challenge the Sunday morning crew – as too will the LP’s most beguiling cut – ‘Song For Mia’. This one has a real country feel – accentuated by the acoustic guitar of co-writer Toshi Reagon but it’s the oblique lyrics, taking us into Leonard Cohen/Joni Mitchell territory, that provide the stimulus. There’s more questioning in the album’s so-called ‘bonus cut’ – a plaintive take on the Mel Tillis-penned/Patsy Cline-associated country song ‘Strange’ which echoes the feel of the singer’s ‘Salt’ long player. There’s no doubts that parts of ‘The Orchard’ will find their way onto the Radio 2 schedules, but equally some of its fruit will add fuel to the contention that Liz Wright is a major and serious jazz player.
(BB) 4/5