Vocalist extraordinaire Lizz Wright told the audience at the Dakota Jazz Club Wednesday night that she is sensitive about sound. That meant she addressed a sound man in mid-song a few times and once even started a song over because a glitch in the sound bothered her.
Turns out that she’s also sensitive to light. At least light from a flashing photo device. When she was just about to croon the opening line of “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” someone tried to take a picture and Wright stopped everything and chided, with a mix of sternness and humor.
“You don’t need to do anything here in this room that you would not do with me alone in a room,” she said. “The song is intimate. It takes about six minutes.” Then she apologized for the sexual innuendo and delivered a graceful and gorgeous “First Time.”
When Wright, 35, was on, she was marvelous. But early on in her 100-minute performance, she and her four musicians didn’t seem to be in sync. The drummer was often too loud, the solos by the guitarist and organist did not seem logical extensions of Wright’s singing – they were too aggressive.
But Wright and her band finally found their groove on material from this month’s new album, “Freedom & Surrender.” “Freedom” was an organic 1970s-style soul tune devoid of instrumental solos and all about Wright’s vocals. “The New Game” found a nice Southern soul groove, with an organ passage that felt like tip of the hat to Booker T. “River Man” was an impressionistic blues that fit nicely with some of Wright’s impressionistic jazz pieces.
The rest of the set showcased the range of Wright’s smoky alto voice. She transformed Gladys Knight’s “Imagination” into a funk workout, unleashed some full-throated singing on the deep-down gospel-blues “Coming Home” and delivered an amazingly funky and soulful reading of “Amazing Grace,” ending with some deep-voiced testifying and a quick and surprising “ha-ha.”
Sensitive sounds, indeed.