The Jazzcat

Jazz Vocalist Lizz Wright and Vibraphonist Stefon Harris with Blackout on Feb. 11

by on Feb.02, 2005, under News

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 UCLA Live Presents An Exclusive Double Bill

With Stellar Jazz Vocalist Lizz Wright and Vibraphonist Stefon Harris with

Blackout on Feb. 11


“With her penchant for

leisurely tempos, soulful interpretations and gloriously resonant low notes,

Wright easily justified the buzz she has been generating …The Chicago Tribune



is simply brilliant and takes the instrument places it would not normally

travel, as only a true master musician can … and the scary part is, he’s just

getting started.”


Times Union


LOS ANGELES—In an exclusive

double bill, UCLA Live features performances by new

jazz vocal star Lizz Wright followed by Stefon Harris, the three-time Grammy-nominated

vibraphonist/marimbist, with Blackout, his outstanding jazz group. The concert begins at 8

p.m., Friday, Feb. 11

at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus and will run for approximately for two hours with one

intermission. Tickets are available by calling

310-825-2101, visiting, or contacting any Ticketmaster outlet.



Georgia-born jazz vocalist Lizz Wright first stole the spotlight in her

stirring 2002 appearances during Billie Holiday Tributes in Chicago

and Los Angeles.

Since then, this young soulful contralto has taken the jazz scene by storm with

her widely acclaimed 2003 Verve recording debut Salt,” a sultry and eclectic mix of standards and her own

original compositions laced with generous helpings of soul, gospel and R&B.

The album was named one of the top ten jazz albums of the year by Billboard magazine. Wright will

be performing with Jeff Haynes on percussion, Carl Burnett,

guitar, and another musician to be announced.


Vibraphonist-composer Stefon Harris is

blazing new trails with his unrivaled passion, brilliant ideas and jaw-dropping

virtuosity. A classically trained musician whose albums have continuously pushed

the boundaries of his genre, Harris’ recent Blue Note release Evolution showcases his

ever-evolving talent and vision and takes a radically different direction. The album and the

UCLA Live performance feature his new jazz-forward band Blackout,

which in L.A. includes saxophonist Casey Benjamin, keyboardist Marc

Cary, bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Terreon Gully. They

have crafted a unique electric-acoustic hybrid concept, blending jazz with

elements of R&B and hip-hop; a sound that the Washington Post referred to

as “contemporary jazz on their own terms.” As Harris himself puts it: “We grew

up listening to music that thumped. We love jazz and respect it and we think

jazz should thump.”



Wright grabbed

popular attention in 2002, when as an unknown singer on the bill of a Billie Holiday tribute concert at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, she emerged the next day a new star after her

mellifluously soulful renditions of “I Cover the Waterfront” and “Don't

Explain” left the packed house starry-eyed. A week later she stole the

spotlight again at the L.A. Billie Holiday tribute at the Hollywood Bowl. Veteran Los

Angeles Times jazz critic Don Heckman wrote “The real surprise of the

evening was Lizz Wright making her California

debut [offering] convincing evidence of her potential as a new jazz vocal star.

Slender and dark-eyed, with a radiant sense of self-confidence, she sings with

an articulate maturity that surpasses her youth.”


The release of Wright’s 2003 Salt” with producer Tommy LiPuma, Verve CEO and industry

legend, and A-list talents drummer Brian Blade, pianist Danilo Perez,

saxophonist Chris Potter and percussionist Jeff Haynes, she further established

herself with an eclectic blend of jazz standards and original compositions.

Wright is uniquely gifted with a full-bodied contralto, emotionally-intuitive

phrasing, and a yen for quiet drama. From a jazzy-soul takeover of Flora

Purim’s “Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly” to a quietly spiritual rendition of The Wiz’s “Soon as I Get Home,” Wright

proves to be the consummate interpreter.


is both a jazz singer with soul overtones and a soul singer with jazz stylings.

She fuses a number of musical genres bringing to mind Roberta Flack, Stevie

Wonder and Cassandra Wilson.


Wright was born on January 22, 1980 in Hahira, Georgia,

the youngest of three siblings whose father was a minister and whose mother

sang gospel at his services. “I’ve been singing in church since I was six—I was

drafted into it,” laughs Wright. “My brother and sister and I used to sing as a

trio when my dad would preach. If we weren’t at home doing homework or chores,

we were in the car with our parents and on the way to church and different

revivals.” By the age of fourteen, she taught herself piano well enough to

“help my dad in church by playing a little bit.” At Houston County

High School, Wright was

in several choirs, and duet and quartet groups which won regional and state

medals and later a National Choral Award. During this period she also

discovered jazz, via Marian McPartland’s NPR jazz program.


After a year at Atlanta’s

Georgia State University

as a music performance major where the only option was to study classical

styles, she left to work more with small jazz combos. In 1998, when Wright

relocated 200 miles south to Macon,

it was a turning point. “I figured out what I wanted to do and why I wanted to

do it. I would drive two hours several nights a week to Atlanta just to sit down and hear some jazz.

After a bit, I was sitting in at jam sessions.” It was at a ‘99 jam session at

Churchill Grounds that Wright was discovered and invited to join the Atlanta band In the

Spirit. Within a year, Creative

Loafing, Atlanta’s alternative newspaper,

anointed In the Spirit the best jazz group in Atlanta and said: “Wright is truly a singer’s

singer. Her beautiful tone and exquisite phrasing … point to the fact that

Ms. Wright may well be Ms. Right.  She

has it all.” Wright comments, “Music is my opportunity to let myself remember

my spirit. I think of Billie Holiday and Abbey Lincoln—what it means to be a

singer. When you address and share your humanity, you really are close to

people in a universal sense.”


The gifted 30-year-old Stefon Harris

was born in Albany, New York, and began playing piano at the age

of six. By the eighth grade, he had expanded his proficiency to nearly twenty

instruments. While still in high school he earned the principal percussionist

chair in the famed Empire State Youth Orchestra. A double-degree graduate of

the Manhattan

School of Music (BA in classical music, MA in jazz performance), Harris also is

a recipient of three


Grammy nominations (for

“Black Action Figure,” “Kindred,” and 2003’s soaring 12-piece concert-length

jazz suite “The Grand Unification Theory”), as well as Jazz at Lincoln Center’s prestigious Martin E. Segal

Award. His resume includes recording and touring gigs with the Max Roach, Joe

Henderson, Wynton Marsalis, Charlie Hunter, Kenny Barron and Cassandra Wilson.



turned a corner with the 2004 release of “Evolution,” his fifth

recording as a leader for Blue Note Records. His 2003 release, “The Grand

Unification Theory,” was an expansive concert-length jazz suite for a 12-piece

ensemble of which the Los Angeles Times’ critic Don Heckman wrote “the progress in Harris’ work and ideas that

has taken place over the last few years simply affirms the original view of him

as one of the significant jazz players of the new century.”


Harris’ group Blackout is climbing with him to new levels. “I

call the band Blackout because we're about blacking out the narrow views

surrounding and constricting the definition of jazz. This

is an art form like no other in that it embodies a great deal of musical

subtlety, individual expression and unpredictability. Its evolution is



Indeed, each member of Blackout was

chosen for his ability to give make that criteria a reality. “This particular

group of musicians, I think were just meant to be together at this point in

history,” smiles Harris. “Terreon has been with me for five years and he

brings a lot of different musical influences from hip-hop to Latin. He has a

very unique sensibility that’s developed over time and in turn has had a

dramatic effect on my compositions. I’ve always considered Marc Cary to

be a pioneer in the realm of sound production. He is

an immensely imaginative musician with his own sound and has an uncanny ability

to make an electric keyboard sound acoustically organic. Casey Benjamin has a vocal tone filled with soul,

passion and fire. He plays with an unrelenting intensity every night which

raises the bar for us all. I love that Darryl Hall (Vicente Archer at the UCLA

Live show) can take an upright bass and make it bump like an electric. This

is an essential element of the Blackout sound. I

think he is one of the few bassists who can pull this off. He is the glue that

holds it all together.”



are: $40, $32, $22 and

may be purchased at the UCLA Central Ticket Office at the southwest corner of

the James West Alumni Center, online at,

and at all Ticketmaster outlets. For more information or to charge by

phone, please call 310-825-2101. UCLA students may also purchase

discounted tickets for $15 in advance. Student rush tickets at the same price

are available to all students with a valid i.d. one hour prior to show



Supported by the Henry Mancini Tribute Fund  


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