Today we’re premiering a video from Elizabeth Shepherd, whose album The Signal will be released September 30 (pre-order it from Amazon). She’s a pianist and singer who’s in the neighborhood of jazz, but incorporates influences from soul, singer-songwriter folk, and electronic music. Based in Montreal, she’s the only only jazz singer to ever be longlisted for Canada’s Polaris Prize (which could be a statement about her talent, or about the general direness of jazz vocals, depending on how you look at it).
The Signal isn’t a jazz album, really. It’s more of a jazzy album that sits comfortably beside turn-of-the-century work by artists like Esthero or Lamb, who mixed electronics with jazz and funk in adventurous ways. There’s even a little bit of early Björk in there. A few different core bands are heard: Shepherd sings (harmonizing with herself at times) and plays Fender Rhodes, kalimba, piano, and MOOG; depending on the track, Ross MacIntyre or Scott Kemp is on bass; Roman Tome, Colin Kingsmore, Larnell Lewis and Joshua Van Tassel all take turns on the drums; Lionel Loueke adds guitar and vocals to three tracks; John Maclean plays flute and ngoni, and claps on three others; Mark Mosca plays steel pans on one; Alex Samaras and Yvette Tollar are guest vocalists on one track each; and Kevin Turcotte plays trumpet on two tracks. The music never feels scattered or patchwork, though; an overall mood is sustained, even as the rhythms bounce from a trip-hoppish simmer to clattering organ-fueled funk. Shepherd’s delivery can be a gentle croon, or a breathy half-spoken exhortation. The Signal is a confident, if introspective, album by an artist in total control of her sound and message, making categorization beside the point.
Here’s the video for “Willow,” featuring Lionel Loueke: