Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

November/December 2014: dig! magazine Turns Ten!

Jill Barber and Elizabeth Shepherd: East and West

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Winnipeg is on the fall tour circuit for two young Canadian singers.

First out of the gate is Jill Barber, a Vancouver-based singer whose work evokes the glamour of bygone eras. With several recordings under her belt, including Chances, Mischievous Moon, and Chansons, she has become an audience favourite in Canada, Australia, and elsewhere, known for her distinctive vocals, in English and French, and her atmospheric arrangements. As she puts it, “I can’t help but feel nostalgic for other eras of music. When I listen to Etta James, or Ray Charles or Carole King, I feel almost intoxicated. It stirs something in me. When I write my own music, my greatest hope is that it ends up becoming the perfect soundtrack to some great romance, or at the very least a great cocktail party.”

Her sixth recording, Fool’s Gold, adds a little Motown to the mix, but continues her unabashed focus on romance. These love songs are sweet, sexy, and full of hope, but with enough experience behind them to know that what is so shiny may not be real gold. Joining her are long-time collaborators and bandmates Les Cooper and Drew Jurecka. She plays at the West End Cultural Centre on November 10.

Later in the month, Winnipeg audiences have a chance to hear Elizabeth Shepherd, a Toronto singer-pianist whose work pushes the envelope, calling up influences from Stevie Wonder to Salvation Army brass bands to classical piano. She came to international attention with her first recording, Start to Move, and has compelled listeners with subsequent recordings, Besides, Parkdale, Heavy Falls the Night, and Rewind. Along the way, she has been nominated for three Junos and one Polaris award, and has toured extensively across North America, Mexico, Europe, and Japan.

Shepherd listens widely, and you can hear that in her work. Each recording shows a different aspect of her eclectic taste, but every one of them is marked by her frank and soulful sensibility, effortless vocals, and stylish keyboard work.

Her new recording, The Signal, draws on a broad musical palette, including Asian beats, steel drums, studio effects, and recorded samples. She tackles big subjects too—feminism, environmental collapse, racial tensions, hope and despair. She is joined by Toronto bandmates Scott Kemp, Ross MacIntyre, Colin Kingsmore, Larnell Lewis, Kevin Turcotte, Joshua Van Tassel and Roman Tome. West African guitar sensation, Lionel Loueke, guests on a couple of tunes.

The Signal was released at the end of September, and after an intense tour in Mexico, Shepherd will showcase the recording across the US and Canada. She performs November 27 at the Lorne Watson Hall in Brandon, then the following night at the Park Theatre in Winnipeg.

Tickets are available online or at the Jazz Winnipeg office—you can save yourself $5 if you buy in advance!

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