Elizabeth Shepherd - Time (Pinwheel Music): This internationally-acclaimed Quebec-based jazz singer, pianist, and composer is readying the release of her seventh studio album, Three Things, due out on Feb. 17.
Time is the first single from that record, and it is vintage Shepherd in that it manages to be adventurous and idiosyncratic yet still accessible. It features skittering drums, a saxophone weaving in and out, and Shepherd's highly accomplished vocal phrasing.
In a label press release, she explains that “I half-jokingly refer to this as my gospel album." Three Things charts a personal faith that uses music to look beyond oneself, to express gratitude and to connect - with the divine and with others.
Shepherd adds that “During the pandemic, this huge divide emerged, and it made me realize that I needed to safeguard myself from always surrounding myself with people who think like me – to break the echo chamber if you will. Here’s someone I may never agree with, but ultimately, we all want the same things – shelter, fulfilment, love, what’s best for our kids - so let's start there.”
The seeds of the new album were sown during pre-pandemic improvisational sessions with Jasper Hoiby, a renowned Danish bassist. The press release explains that, once the lockdown hit, Shepherd turned to recordings she had made of her sprawling explorations with Hoiby and dissected them. "I took snippets from our recordings, turned stuff upside down, added layers and synth parts, and came up with these songs. Then I sent them off to musician friends and asked them to add their parts. I ended up with this Frankenstein album that’s very different from what I've done before.”
Shepherd has long forged her own creative path, with Mojo praising her "unique and unclassifiable style that blurs the boundaries between jazz, R&B, pop and hip-hop." She recently collaborated with another Canadian sonic adventurer, Michael Occhipinti, for the well-regarded ES:MO project, and we await her new album with real anticipation.
Follownig a Feb. 25 date at Kitchener's Jazz Room, Shepherd starts a national tour in Montreal on March 16, concluding in Cobourg on April 29. See the full itinerary here.
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