Individually, singer-songwriters Lizz Wright and Raul Midon have captivated audiences with their unique spiritual styles that blend jazz, R&B, soul and gospel. Together, they create a musical alchemy that will light up the stage at the Elgin Community College Arts Center’s Blizzard Theatre on Saturday night.
Fresh from a highly successful European tour, the duo has brought their fusion of sounds to audiences across the United States. Wright said the experience is one she hopes audiences enjoy as much as she has.
“Raul Midon and I share a tremendous love and language of rhythm,” Wright said. “I think between me and Raul’s music and where it meets together, it just creates an environment for joy.”
Frequently compared to such vocal artists as Gladys Knight, Mavis Staples and Nina Simone, Wright’s 2003 debut album “Salt” introduced her as a vital new voice on the jazz scene. However, her musical roots stretch through a broad range of influences, and her eclectic style also includes elements of blues and gospel.
She says these influences have been a part of her all her life, all the way back to her formative years growing up as the daughter of a Georgia minister.
For example, she said many of the rhythms of the blues felt familiar to her because they are so similar to the kind of call-and-response spirituals her sang in church. “I just think the music really carries a culture’s secrets and nuances,” she said.
Midon also has a reputation as an artist who transcends categorization. Blind from birth, Midon is a virtuoso guitarist who has collaborated with artists including Roberta Flack and Jason Mraz, as well as appearing on “Late Night With David Letterman” and in musical documentaries such as “Still Bill” and “Possibilities.”
With three major-label releases already under his belt, Midon continues to make fans with his signature combination of soul, pop and jazz.
With the eclectic styles both performers bring to the stage, Wright said audiences can expect the unexpected, and she anticipates a lot of give-and-take with the audience. Wright has close ties to the Chicago area, and said there’s a “familiar feeling” to performing in the area that should make for a loose and exuberant show. “The Chicago audience is very soulful, and they are really knowledgeable,” Wright said.
Although she is known primarily for her voice, performing live with Midon has given Wright the opportunity to spread her wings and try some different things. For example, Wright said she plays the drums during some of the songs on her set list with Midon while singing, something she was not accustomed to doing in a live setting.
However, she said, that fact that her brother played the drums constantly in their home and helped her learn to play growing up has made it a comfortable transition.
“It’s been shockingly easy,” she said, adding that she’s not sure how she will be able to transition to simply singing on stage again. “It (helps me) feel close to his spirit.”