Lizz Wright

Released June 14, 2005

Jazzwise Top 10 Releases of 2005



Acclaimed vocalist Lizz Wright is a steward of American music bringing brilliant color and vibrancy to singular original works and compositions by some of the greatest songwriters of our time. Wright has garnered widespread attention as one of the most venerable popular singers of her generation through the release of five critically acclaimed albums.

Through an inimitable voice that The New York Times touts as, “a smooth, dark alto possessed of qualities you might associate with barrel-aged bourbon or butter-soft leather,” Wright sings with a soaring reflection of the cultural fabric of America. She lies beneath the script of human history transcending social divides with an offer of love and deep sense of humanity. Her music accepts the beauty of reality and a collective experience of belonging. For the listener, Wright’s songs embody a tradition that allows us to always feel at home, wherever we might be physically or emotionally.

Wright culls inspiration from her Southern upbringing in Georgia where she was the musical director of a small church in which her father was the pastor. Gospel music, and the call and response singing with the church congregation, informed her first brushes with music. Singing classical repertoire with Dr. Dwight Coleman while attending Georgia State University (Atlanta), studying jazz and spirituals with Dr. Richard Harper of The New School (New York), personal study of the folk tradition, and traversing through the Great American Songbook all fostered a keen interest to discover her own voice across diverse genres.

At the age of 22, Wright made a name for herself nationally as a vocalist with a touring concert tribute to Billie Holiday, where her poised performance stole the show. At 23, she signed with Verve Records for the release of Salt, which topped Billboard’s contemporary jazz charts. Her subsequent albums (Dreaming Wide Awake, The Orchard, Fellowship, and 2015’s Freedom & Surrender) continued to top the charts and her latest single “Lean In” (from Freedom & Surrender) landed on President Obama’s 2016 Summer Playlist.

Dedication to the long form and the cultivation of a balanced life with strong roots has brought Wright from New York City to the countryside outside of Asheville, North Carolina. A respite from the bustling city streets, the beautiful mountain woods provide the perfect backdrop for her writing. Rustic hikes and river swimming, living amongst lovers of the land, growing essential foods in the garden, and harnessing an appreciation for the earth. Wright lives and breathes with the freshness of the country air. In turn, her music remains vital and dynamic growing along with nature’s elements.

Track Listing:

1. A Taste of Honey (Ric Marlow / Bobby Scott) 3:51

2. Stop (Joe Henry) 3:32

3. Hit the Ground (Toshi Reagon / Lizz Wright) 3:31

4. When I Close My Eyes (Dougie Bowne / Yuka Honda / Marc Anthony Thompson) 3:16

5. I’m Confessin’ (Doc Daugherty / Al J. Neiburg / Ellis Reynolds) 2:58

6. Old Man (Neil Young) 3:40

7. Wake Up, Little Sparrow (Ella Jenkins) 3:00

8. Chasing Strange 3:48

9. Get Together (Chester Powers) 4:42

10. Trouble (Carlos Henderson / Lizz Wright) 5:1211. Dreaming Wide Awake (Lizz Wright) 3:44

12. Without You 4:05


Lizz Wright; vocals

Chris Bruce; guitars

David Piltch; bass

Earl Harvin; drums

Glenn Patscha; keyboards, backing vocals

Bill Frisell; guitar (tracks 1,9,11)

Jeff Haynes; percussion (tracks 1,4,9)

Patrick Warren; keyboards (tracks 4,8,11,12)

Greg Leisz; guitar (tracks 2,6,7,12)

Marc Anthony Thompson aka Chocolate Genius; harmonica, backing vocals (track 6)

Toshi Reagan; vocals (tracks 3,9).

Recorded at Allaire Studios, Shokan, NY, USA, October 27 – November 01, 2004. Except ‘A taste of honey’ recorded at Sear Sound, New York, NY, USA, December 5, 2004. Additional recording at Sunset Sound Factory, Los Angeles, CA and Sear Sound, New York, NY. 

Engineer [Sear Sound] – Danny Kopelson (tracks: 1)

Engineer [Second – Allaire Studios] – Matthew Cullen (tracks: 2 to 13)

Engineer [Second – Sear Sound] – Jason Mott, Michael Musmanno, Steve Mazur (2) (tracks: 1)

Engineer [Second – Sunset Sound Factory] – Kevin Dean

Engineer, Mixed By – S. Husky Hoskülds

Executive-Producer – Joe McEwen, Ron Goldstein

Mastered By – Greg Calbi

Photography By – Bill Phelps

Producer – Craig Street


Lizz Wright has an immediately arresting voice. She sounds equally at home whether reaching for high, airy notes or dropping down for the deepest, earthiest tones. Dreaming Wide Awake finds her taking on an eclectic assortment of songs, including a number of impressive originals. With its stripped down soul/jazz/pop arrangements, the album cannot escape comparisons to Norah Jones’ work, but it also recalls Solomon Burke’s great statement of purpose, Don’t Give Up On Me. Like the Burke album, Dreaming Wide Awake offers the thrill of hearing a great, confident voice exercised over a wide range of material.
The disc kicks off with an imaginative, deep blues reinterpretation of the schmaltzy classic “A Taste Of Honey that seems to have altered the very DNA of the song. Wright also turns in an effective performance of Neil Young’s “Old Man with backing vocals by Marc Anthony Thompson (aka Chocolate Genius). She seems so in sympathy with the song that the prospect of her covering other Young compositions becomes, if not obvious, than certainly intriguing. I can imagine her tackling “Only Love Can Break Your Heart or “Birds, and they would fit just fine.

Another standout is “Hit The Ground, composed by Wright with Jesse Harris and Toshi Reagan. The stirring soul ballad sounds inevitable in exactly the right way. The backing vocals are angelic and perfect. It is absolutely a track to build on.
Dreaming Wide Awake is an exciting album from a fresh talent. This is a publication devoted to jazz, and so it should be noted that the album is jazzy rather than being jazz per se. However, that caveat should not discourage anyone looking for music of impeccable taste and deep feeling. Wright is an artist worth watching.

Stephen Latessa (AllAboutJazz)