Lizzie Thomas, New Sounds From the Jazz Age Review
by Jeff Becker
Vocalist Lizzie Thomas knew from an early age her kinship with the Great American Songbook would be lasting. Thomas began her studies with classical piano at age eight, clarinet at ten, but at age twelve, she knew singing would be a permanent endeavor for this budding artist. Thomas graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Vocal Performance with graduate studies in Music Education from Belmont University in Nashville, TN., under the tutelage of Sandra Dudley.
Ultimately Thomas would relocate to New York, which afforded her the opportunity to work with a plethora of top-shelf jazz artists including, Russell Malone, Jay Leonhart, Xavier Davis, Alvester Garnett, Michael Kanan, Ron Affif, Frank Lacy, Antoine Drye, Pasquale Grasso, and who would become her music director, John Colianni. Thomas has produced and released three albums; More Than You Know (2010), Easy to Love(2013), and an evergreen holiday release Santa Baby (2014). In January of 2020, Thomas, along with long-time collaborator John Colianni, cobbled together an exciting collection of time-honored standards, giving them unique treatments that highlight Thomas’ steadfast love of standards titled, New Sounds From the Jazz Age.
“Fascinating Rhythm,” offers a sleek and sensual speakeasy sound. With all the luster and seductiveness of the era, enhanced by clarinetist Felix Peikli, giving the tune an authentic appeal. Thomas has a pleasing rounded tone. With superb vocal quality, she executes the melody with interest and tempo changes, adding interest to the arrangement. Bassist, Boots Maleson adds a loping pocket that swings fluently along with drummer Bernard Linette, who shines with effortless mastery.
Special guest, guitarist Russell Malone adds his bluesy sound to “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To.” While tenor saxophonist, Omar Daniels spins forth a heat-seeking solo that is hot and tasty. A recurring counterpoint throughout the melody gives the arrangement a lilting catchiness that lends to a unique rendition of a classic tune.
I have always loved “One Note Samba,” and Thomas fashions the tempo in a break-neck rendition that focuses on her pivotal abilities to navigate the tune with passionate accuracy and panegyric acumen. Colianni equally displays his nimble dexterity while bassist Jay Leonhart offers his enduring anchored sound with guitarist Matt Chertkoff accenting with Thomas. The melody is handled with hairpin accuracy, all the while at lightning speed veracity.
Lizzie Thomas is not necessarily a new name on the jazz scene, but with New Sounds From the Jazz Age, it certainly is setting her on a lasting trajectory of career longevity.