Elizabeth Shepherd three time Juno nominee Nov. 21

“Motherhood changes you fundamentally, your perspective on life, the world and your role in it. I now feel there is no way other way to create than from a place of absolute sincerity and certainty. We each have a voice, and I finally believe in the uniqueness of my own. If I die tomorrow, I can be proud of leaving this record behind”.
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VelvetElizabeth_Shepherdy-voiced pianist Elizabeth Shepherd arrived on the international scene in 2006 when her debut album Start To Move was voted one of the Top 3 jazz albums of the year by the listeners of the influential Gilles Peterson Show on BBC Radio Worldwide. Since then, the Montreal-based souljazz innovator has released three widely acclaimed records and toured extensively in North America, Europe, Japan and Latin America. The 3-time JUNO nominee has sold out legendary clubs from Tokyo to Detroit, played festivals like Montreal and North Sea Jazz Festivals, shared the stage with greats like Victor Wooten and Branford Marsalis and opened for Jamie Cullum at The Hollywood Bowl.
Elizabeth first came to sing at the Civic Centre back in 2009 as part of Jane Bunnett’s big 17 piece jazz and world music ensemble Embracing Voices. Then she came through town a few years back with her trio to play gig at The Island Restaurant showcasing her own music. Bill Usher caught up with Elizabeth on the phone just before she flew out of Montreal for gigs with her trio in Mexico.

Over 4 acclaimed albums, Elizabeth Shepherd has created a body of work praised around the world for its originality. Versed in equal parts Stevie Wonder, Salvation Army brass bands and classical sonatas, it is perhaps no surprise that this globetrotting talent has developed such a distinct voice. Along with artists like Esperanza Spalding, Robert Glasper, and Jose James she is part of a wave of jazz musicians – raised on as much hip-hop as bebop – bringing the art form to a new generation of music fans.

elizabethshepherd_thesignal_72dpi-1Shepherd’s fifth and latest release, The Signal, is her most mature, bold and compelling vision yet. With one track flowing seamlessly into the next, The Signal is a cohesive sonic journey that gradually unveils a very personal feminist manifesto.

“I feel that this album is giving voice to my own strength as a woman”, says Shepherd. “Every song except one is about a woman or written from a female perspective. I believe in the sisterhood and its immense power that has yet to be fully explored. Giving birth to a daughter, I knew I had to step up my game as a woman, of what we can do, of how we can lift each other up, and this record is an extension of that realization”

As album opener “Willow” sets the record’s nocturnal mood, the dark and dreamy tone is enhanced by the ethereal guitar and vocal contributions of Lionel Loueke (Herbie Hancock, Angelique Kidjo). One of the most celebrated guitarists of his generation, Loueke’s West African inflections are among the undeniable highlights on the record.

As always, Shepherd manages to make her odd-meter grooves feel fluid and funky, while her sensual, breathy voice is as direct and haunting as ever. Warm and fuzzy or cool and sparkling, Shepherd’s electric Rhodes piano anchors the sound of The Signal, and her love of soul, funk, and old-school hip-hop shines through in the beats that propel many of tracks. An adventurous producer, the 3-time JUNO nominee (Canada’s GRAMMY equivalent) successfully incorporates nrumbling Moog keyboard, ngoni, steel pans and kalimba as well as a range of samples that include blues legend Lead Belly and Mother Teresa.

Lyrically, the subject matter touches on 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”).

The new songs were decisively influenced by the birth of Shepherd’s daughter: “Motherhood changes you fundamentally, your perspective on life, the world and your role in it. I now feel there is no way other way to create than from a place of absolute sincerity and certainty. We each have a voice, and I finally believe in the uniqueness of my own. If I die tomorrow, I can be proud of leaving this record behind”.

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