Elizabeth Shepherd is, like Maria Neckam, nominally a jazz singer-songwriter but quirky compositions and a slightly quirky way of singing makes her decidedly not the lounge kind of jazz singer. And yes, I mean ‘quirky’ in the best possible way…a lot of vocal jazz can be boring and rote but Shepherd is anything but that.
To get a good idea of what I mean, put an ear to “What’s Happening” above, a stream we’re offering up ahead of Shepherd’s upcoming next release The Signal, out September 30 on Linus Entertainment/True North. With her fuzzy electric piano kicking off the groove, a sultry, breathy vocal delivery and hip-hop-inflected neo-soul beats supplied by an all-acoustic rhythm section, Shepherd is like a cross between Rickie Lee Jones and Jose James, with the suave profundity of Steely Dan found everywhere in her songs.
Shepherd has gotten some recognition in her native Canada (three Juno award nominations), but justice would dictate her following the southward path of success found by fellow Canadian Diana Krall. And with no disrespect meant to the talented Ms. Krall, Shepherd is far more adventurous.
With Lionel Loueke’s West African guitar and scats gracing a couple of tracks, there’s plenty more goodness to come from Signal following “What’s Happening.” Elizabeth Shepherd will change for the better your perceptions of what a “jazz vocalist” means in this day and age.