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Issue 1090

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Review

Elizabeth Shepherd: The Signal (Lines Ent)

Elizabeth Shepherd - The Signal (Lines ENT)

9

6.1

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UK release date 26.01.2015

A signal is defined as: âTo convey information or instructions by means of a gesture, action, or sound.â Or: âAn electrical impulse or radio wave transmitted or received.â

In the case of Canadian jazz-soul artist Elizabeth Shepherd, âThe Signalâ is further indication, gesture and action that she is worthy of major league artist status and deserving of wider attention.

On a similar tip to the likes of Esperenza Spalding and influenced by all the right names; such as Robert Glasper and Jose James, Elizabethâs fifth album is an innovative breath of fresh air.

She stormed onto the scene in 2006 with her debut, âStart To Move,â one of Gilles Petersonâs albums of the year back then. No stranger to critical acclaim, with three Juno award nominations, the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy.

A fearless lyricist, covering subjects on this album including everything from Monsanto and motherhood to witchcraft and war. Unafraid to tackle difficult issues, Shepherd addresses environmental degradation in India caused by the cotton industry ("BT Cotton"), forced marriages and rape in Africa ("Lion's Den"), and the murder of young African-American Trayvon Martin ("Another Day").

Her ace card here is the addition of Blue Note artist & jazz guitar legend Lionel Loueke (Herbie Hancock, Angelique Kidjo, Robert Glasper.)

Credited as one of the leading young forces pushing the boundaries of jazz, Shepherd along with Spalding, Glasper and James is part of a group of jazz musicians bringing the art form to a new generation. Versed in equal parts Stevie Wonder, Salvation Army brass bands and classical sonatas, hers is a big talent and a distinct voice.

Uncompromising and playful exploration, unafraid of falling between the genre cracks. Her trademark rhythmic groove is at the core of Shepherdâs writing, while her fluid, sensual, breathy voice is compelling.

The Montreal-based soul-jazz innovator has been praised around the world for her song-writing chops, but on this offering, the pianist and vocalist showcases her skills as an arranger and interpreter, breathing new life - and soul - into the songs. Part of an exciting new wave of jazz musicians - raised as much on hip-hop as bebop.

âThe Signal,â is a series of 10 seamlessly woven songs, deserving of being heard as a complete body of work; you know, just like it used to be in the good old days of LPs and vinyl crackle.

The new songs were influenced by the birth of Shepherd's daughter, and her new perspective on life, the world and her role in it. âIf I die tomorrow, I can be proud of leaving this record behind." She most certainly should be.
Words SIMON REDLEY

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