By Frank Alkyer | Published July 2022
Lizz Wright comes to her music with equal parts gospel, jazz, r&b and blues. The alto vibrations of her dark-toned, rich voice would sound at home in any church, jazz club, theater or even arena. She’s just that versatile as an artist. Here on Holding Space, Live In Berlin, the venue is the Columbia Theater in Berlin, Germany. And the sound is that of an artist at the height of her abilities connecting with an audience in a way that we all craved during the dark days of the pandemic. Wright, indeed, had time to reflect during those days, going through her thoughts and old recordings, finding this one from a 2018 performance that she has now put out as the first recording on her own label Blues & Greens Records. The sound on this recording is fantastic. The band — Bobby Ray Sparks II on keyboards, Ben Zwerin on bass, Ivan Edwards on drums and Chris Bruce on guitar — is tight and soulful. And the music Wright and this group makes is pure magic. The opening tune, “Barley,” sets the tone for grooving, yearning soul. Bruce on guitar and Sparks on organ tie the tune together in a bow dripping with gospel and soul. Wright has always had impeccable taste in the music she chooses to perform, taking songs that may not seem obvious choices and making them her own. Neil Young’s “Old Man” is a fantastic example. So, too, is k.d. lang’s “Wash Me Clean.” The music she writes and co-writes takes no back seat to such classics. “Somewhere Down The Mystic” from Freedom & Surrender (Concord, 2015) drifts through the realm of longing until it finds the hope. She lovingly takes us to church with “Walk With Me, Lord,” a thoroughly uplifting launching pad for Sparks on organ and a locked-in rhythm section defying any listener not to bop, sway or straight-up dance. Ditto that feeling on the beautifully greasy “Seems I’m Never Tired Of Loving You.” This album is a treat from start to finish, with Wright serving as a beautiful, honest storyteller of incredible depth and heart. For a little more insight on the project, HERE is a short film that accompanyies the album.