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Published on August 4th, 2015 | by Jameelah "Just Jay" Wilkerson


Lizz Wright Debut’s “River Man”


It has been five years since Wright’s last release, the Gospel themed Fellowship, and now Lizz Wright returns with her most powerful and emotional album yet- Freedom & Surrender. Freedom & Surrender also marks her debut recording for Concord Records. The album will be available everywhere on September 4th and Lizz Wright will be on tour throughout the summer and fall in both Europe and the U.S. in support of the record. Full list of tour dates below.

Yesterday, NPR debuted Wright’s track “RIver Man.” NPR’s Ann Powers said of the track,”Lizz Wright is one of the rare singers who shares Drake’s patience and self-possession when inhabiting a song’s environment…Other highlights on that very romantic, spiritually inquisitive disc include a duet with the singer’s friend Gregory Porter and several originals penned with the likes of J.D. Souther, Toshi Reagon and Klein himself. At 35, Wright has established a style that’s temperate and spacious, giving her room to try new things while remaining true to a subtle muse. The way she takes up the call of “River Man” is a deep sign of her wisdom and commitment.”


On Freedom & Surrender, four-time GRAMMY-winning bassist and producer Larry Klein, acted as producer. Klein, who’s best known for his work with such iconic vocalists as Joni Mitchell, Madeleine Peyroux, Shawn Colvin and Tracy Chapman, worked with Wright to put together a who’s who of masters to round out both the players and the songwriting collaborators. This includes writing work from Klein, David Batteau, Maia Sharp, J.D. Souther, Toshi Reagon and Jesse Harris. In the studio the pair used drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, bassist Dan Lutz, percussionist Pete Korpela, guitarists Dean Parks and Jesse Harris; and keyboardists Kenny Banks, Pete Kuzma, and Billy Childs .


The Game
The New Game
Lean In
Right Where You Are – duet with Gregory Porter
River Man
Somewhere Down The Mystic
Real Life Painting
To Love Somebody
Here and Now
Blessed The Brave


8/7/2015 – Aspen Art Museum – Aspen, CO

8/8/2015 – Aspen Art Museum – Aspen, CO

9/10/2015 – Highline – New York, NY

9/11/2015 – The Howard – Washington, DC

9/12/2015 – Berklee Performance Center – Boston, MA

9/13/2015 – Infinity – Hartford, CT

9/15/2015 – Jazz Alley – Seattle, WA

9/16/2015 – Jazz Alley – Seattle, WA

9/17/2015 – Largo – Los Angeles, CA

9/19/2015 – Monterey Jazz Festival – Monterey, CA

9/20/2015 – MIM Music Theater – Phoenix, AZ

9/22/2015 – Dakota (7PM) – Minneapolis, MN

9/23/2015 – Dakota (7PM) – Minneapolis, MN

9/25/2015 – City Winery (7:30 & 10PM) – Chicago, IL

10/16/2015 – Stockholm Concert Hall (Stockholm Jazz Festival) – Stockholm, SWEDEN

10/17/2015 – Lillehammer kirke (5PM) – Lillehammer, NORWAY

10/18/2015 – Cosmopolite – Oslo, NORWAY

10/19/2015 – Stenhammarsalen – Goteborg, SWEDEN

10/22/2015 – Flagey – Brussels, BELGIUM

10/23/2015 – Paradiso – Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS

10/26/2015 – Heimathafen – Berlin, GERMANY

10/27/2015 – Laeiszhalle – Hamburg, GERMANY

10/29/2015 – Theaterhaus Gessnerallee – Zurich, SWITZERLAND

11/5/2015 – Arscht Center (Perf. Of Spike Lee/T. Blanchard Movie Music) – Miami, FL

11/6/2015 – Arscht Center (Perf. Of Spike Lee/T. Blanchard Movie Music) – Miami, FL


Freedom & Surrender was initially supposed to be a disc of mostly cover-songs, centered on themes of “the circuitous dance of love.” Instead, it became the very opposite – an album of mostly originals – while keeping the initial theme intact. Wright explains, “There’s a time for everything. There’s a time to do cover-song records, which can be like sharing good homework after doing really beautiful research. It can be amazing and very creative in that way. But I just knew it wasn’t time for me to be doing that. I had to prove it and buckle down and make it happen.”

Without a doubt, Wright certainly made it happen with Freedom & Surrender, her sexiest, most sensual album yet. She wrote ten of the disc’s 15 songs, six with Klein and Batteau. The three penned “The New Game” – the disc’s original working title – a rollicking, country-blues ditty with poetic lyrics and verses. The album as a whole touches upon fresher emotional terrain, especially the ethereal, acoustic guitar and Hammond organ-powered “Somewhere Down the Mystic,” the beautiful lament “Here and Now,” (which was inspired in part by the passing of Maya Angelou), the salty and spiteful “You” and the tender R&B ballad “Blessed the Brave.”

Written by Wright, Klein and celebrated songwriter J.D. Souther, “Right Where You Are” is a mesmerizing love slow jam featuring Wright in an amorous duet with Gregory Porter, while “Real Life Painting,” written by Wright and Maia Sharp, is a bucolic evocation about dwelling in the momentary carnal bliss of a love affair.

Souther invited Wright to his small farm in Nashville for a writing session where she recalls playing a lot of piano in his barn. “I gave him a few chords and turned them around into something that we liked. I didn’t think he was going to do anything with them but then he sent me part of the song all the way through to the B section,” Wright recalls. “I respect his clarity and speed.”

Wright was also delighted to have the song feature Porter, whom she toured with in 2013. “The song is very tender and slow. To trust him with that was easy; to hear him move through a suspended, vulnerable space, you can get into the machinery of his voice,” she offers.

Wright is equally enthusiastic about her writing sessions with Sharp, which yielded “Real Life Painting,” containing reflections with cinematic-like qualities. “She is a real fast writer and a wonderful guitarist,” Wright notes.

On “Freedom” and “Surrender” – two songs which bookend the disc – Wright reconnected with Toshi Reagon, who played tremendous roles on her three previous discs – Dreaming Wide Awake (2005), The Orchard (2008) and Fellowship (2010). The gentle yet lusty waltz “Surrender” showcases Wright in a seductive splendor, while Reagon’s declarative, funk-driven “Freedom,” displays Wright in a feisty independent mode. ‘Freedom’ is so unapologetic; it has weight to it that differs from the other songs,” Wright explains. “Larry totally got it; he thought the song was just killing. There’s something about Toshi in which she always calls my spirit to be true in whatever I do.”

Jesse Harris, another longtime collaborator of Wright, co-wrote the lulling, erotically charged ballad “The Game” and the slinky “Lean In,” which moves to a midnight groove that Marvin Gaye might have concocted with Leon Ware.

When it came to covers, Wright chose wisely. She slows the Bee Gees’ 1967 ballad “To Love Somebody,” to a smoldering crawl that maximizes both her gorgeous voice and the song’s pleading lyrics. On bonus track Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger’s classic “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” – a song made famous in 1972 by Roberta Flack – Wright delivers a haunting, almost noir-ish interpretation. And on Nick Drake’s immortal folk classic, “River Man,” Wright uncoils newfound emotional clarity through her mesmerizing delivery and the spectral arrangement, which also features noted German trumpeter Till Brönner blowing a blustery solo.

Wright has reached new heights of singing and songwriting, and has delivered an album destined to become a classic.


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Publisher and CEO of The Hype Magazine. Follow me on Twitter @HypeJustJay

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