New Release Highlights Both Aspects of Lisa B’s Work, Featuring the Singer and Poet Reciting and Singing Her Original Poetry Within Jazz and Creative Music Settings
Singer and poet Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) will release her seventh album, Reverberant: Poems & Music
, on October 11. The new record joins the two strands of Lisa B’s work, vocal jazz and poetry, in riveting new ways. In a departure from Lisa B’s previous albums—which feature her jazz vocals in original songs and standards, often including her own spoken verse—Reverberant
is grounded in ten of Lisa B’s mainly free-verse poems.
“I had decided to make this record before realizing that poetry/jazz is having a resurgence,” explains Lisa. “The past couple of years have seen drummer Matt Wilson
and guests reimagine the work of poet Carl Sandburg; a song cycle by pianist Helen Sung
and poet Dana Gioia; and saxophonist Benjamin Boone
releasing two volumes with poet Philip Levine and a stellar jazz ensemble. Brazilian singer Luciana Souza
has continued to release recordings of poems set to music with the recent Book of Longing
.” As lovely and provocative as these projects are, none of these artists do what Lisa has done on Reverberant
: speak her own poems within jazz and creative music settings, at times incorporating her singing, employing her thoughtful production.
The ten pieces on Reverberant
—largely, free-verse poems in all their unfettered purity and complexity—are linked by the theme of reverberation, literal and metaphorical. They fall into two categories, with much overlap: jazz portraits and spiritual self-realization. Many have appeared in prestigious literary journals, including the Kenyon Review, Lilith, Caliban, and Brilliant Corners. Reverberant
appeals to both jazz and poetry audiences, fostering appreciation of one art form to fans of the other.
The poems are set in dynamic musical compositions created with world-class Bay Area-based musicians in duo and trio settings: pianist/keyboardists Scott R. Looney
and Ben Flint
, drummer Jeff Marrs
, bassist Marcus Shelby
, and multi-instrumentalist James Gardiner
, who also engineered the album. “They each contribute not only virtuosity but an empathetic response to language and excitement about realizing these poems in music,” says Lisa.
The material for the album was finalized in the recording studio. With Lisa’s direction and structure as well as the musicians’ ideas, the group improvised original music to accompany Lisa’s performance of the poems, except for the one standard, “Lover Man.” Overall, there was no rehearsal. As Lisa says, “We trusted the freedom and the deep, skilled communication that existed among us. Our creative process yielded heightened versions of the poems and innovative compositions.”
A single from the album, “I Am an Orchestra: A Tribute to Cecil Taylor,” was released in March 2019, attracting press and song premieres from major jazz outlets Jazz Times, Jazziz, All About Jazz, and others, along with thousands of streams. Among the other tracks on Reverberant
are the album’s opener, “Billie Goes Home/Lover Man,” on which Lisa performs her poem “Billie Goes Home,” written in the persona of Holiday herself, before segueing into singing Billie’s signature tune. On “Lisa’s Lord’s Prayers,” Flint and Marrs lay down a funky jazz-gospel groove as Lisa delivers gospel-inspired singing along with speaking/singing the poem.
Lisa first heard Marrs in a live performance of Money Jungle," where he covered the Max Roach
part, so she knew he was just the person to perform on “With Him and Max’s Solo,” a drum and vocal duet about the innovative bebop master. “God No. 2 (Remastered)” is a new sonic and vocal version of a piece that Lisa released on her first record, Free Me for the Joy. At once a prayer, a protest, a kaleidoscopic list of who and what God is to her, and a description of one path to the experience of creation, the piece features James Gardiner on all instruments.
“Coming back to these poems, some written long ago, as an experienced jazz singer meant that I could bring the dramatic chops of that art form to these renditions – all the tools of pacing, tone, and dynamics that singers employ to express nuanced emotions and ideas,” concludes Lisa. “It’s a merging of skills and intentions that I am thrilled to offer. I hope the results lead to a sense of reverberation within the listener—a joyful feeling of discovery and recognition that is ultimately freeing.”
ABOUT LISA B
Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) is a rare artist: equally accomplished as a jazz vocalist and a poet. I Get A Kick: Cole Porter Reimagined,
the most recent of her six previous records, was released last year on the Jazzed Media label. All her previous albums received critical acclaim and widespread jazz radio play. She is also a respected poet, with a book from the prestigious Wesleyan University Press poetry series, publications in more than 60 literary magazines and anthologies, and creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Headlands Center for the Arts, Ucross Foundation, Barbara Deming Memorial Fund/Money for Women, and others. As a songwriter, Lisa B is known for her original compositions as well as for her adventurously reimagined standards, which incorporate the unique element of her original spoken verse. She has performed at more than 90 venues in the San Francisco
Bay Area, New York, Los Angeles
, and elsewhere.