Lisa Rich – High Wire

Lisa Rich was one of the most promising jazz singers of the 1980s. Blessed with a very attractive voice, she performed in a wide variety of often-prestigious settings during a 15 year period. She made her recording debut with her album Listen Here in 1983 and was featured at a Pops concert in 1985 with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Lisa recorded Touch Of The Rare with Clare Fischer in 1985. The following year she performed at a series of groundbreaking concerts in China (the first jazz events in China since 1949) and she also sang in India in 1990. Unfortunately bad health eventually forced her to stop performing altogether so she opened up a music studio and has worked as a teacher ever since, giving private lessons and conducting workshops.
In 1987, Ms. Rich recorded her third album which she recently remixed and is releasing for the first time. She had made the acquaintance of Chick Corea who gave her several of his songs, only one of which (“Bud Powell”) is well known. With sensitive support provided by pianist Marc Copland (David Kane takes his place on two numbers), bassist Drew Gress and drummer Michael Smith, Lisa Rich interprets five Chick Corea songs, two by Ralph Towner, one apiece by Duke Ellington, Ornette Coleman and Loonis McGlohon, and the standard “We’ll Be Together Again.”
Although the material is often challenging with some wide interval jumps (the Corea and Towner pieces were not originally meant to feature a singer), Lisa Rich sounds relaxed throughout, and her vocal flights sound effortless and natural.
The opener, Corea’s “High Wire The Aerialist,” was not recorded by anyone else until the composer with singer Chaka Khan documented it in 2009, 32 years after this version. The beauty of Lisa Rich’s voice and the ease in which she sings the intervals are very much in evidence. Next up is Corea’s “Contessa,” an obscure jazz waltz that the pianist never recorded, and a straightforward ballad medley of Towner’s “Celeste” (with words by Norma Winstone) and Ellington’s “Prelude To A Kiss.”
“Bud Powell” is one of Corea’s happier melodies and this is its first and possibly only vocal recording. Lisa takes the song for a joyful and swinging ride. “Stardancer,” which was receiving its recording debut, is an adventurous jazz waltz with the singer hitting each note perfectly.
Most of the second half of the program is comprised of slow ballads (other than Corea’s brief and energetic “The Jinn”), including out-of-tempo duets with pianist David Kane on a quietly emotional version of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” (he is also on the “Celeste/Prelude To A Kiss” medley) and with Marc Copland on Towner’s “The Silence Of A Candle.” McGlohon’s “Songbird” features particularly classic ballad singing and the vocalist really digs into each word on a tasteful “We’ll Be Together Again.”
Although it was recorded 32 years ago, the performances on High Wire are timeless and still sound fresh. This is arguably Lisa Rich’s finest recording and is easily recommended.

– Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including
The Jazz Singers and Jazz On Record 1917-76

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