Release date: March 24, 2023
Label: Dot Time Records
Duo Encounters is the electrifying new album from stellar vocalist Lizzie Thomas. A follow-up to Thomas’ critically-acclaimed 2020 release New Sounds From The Jazz Age, Duo Encounters finds the inventive jazz vocalist demonstrating her warm, sultry vocal stylings and swing sensibility alongside a dozen of her favorite collaborators for a set of intimate and adventurous duets. Thomas is in great company on each track of Duo Encounters, which features performances from pianist Helio Alves, bassists Ron Carter, Dezron Douglas and Noriko Ueda, pianists John Di Martino and Rossano Sportiello, guitarists Russell Malone, Ron Afif and Guilherme Monteiro, percussionist Café da Silva, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery and cellist Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf.
The Pittsburgh-born jazz vocalist paid her dues early on in Nashville where she played gigs, ran a piano studio and deepened her jazz vocal skills. From there, Thomas moved to New York City where she quickly became regarded as a preeminent vocalist. Thomas is well known for her monthly residency at 90 Thompson St in Soho which lasted a decade, as well as her sold out performances at iconic jazz venues Birdland, the Triad Theatre and Chelsea Table & Stage. The 2020 release of New Sounds From The Jazz Age was a major step forward for Thomas. The critically-acclaimed album, which featured Thomas alongside pianist-arranger John Colianni, guitarist Russell Malone and bassist Jay Leonhart, demonstrates Thomas’ attractive musical personality and stunning vocal facility whether scatting at fast tempos or caressing a tender ballad.
A follow up to New Sounds From The Jazz Age, the release of Duo Encounters on Dot Time Records cements Thomas’ stature as one of New York’s top jazz singers. As she is known to do, Thomas digs deep into the lyrics and uplifts each song, but these performances also convey a sense of happiness and joy at finally having the opportunity to interact with other musicians after the worst days of the pandemic. The album teams Thomas with a dozen major instrumentalists on one duet apiece. Rather than sing a conventional set in front of an accompanying pianist or guitarist, the interpretations are adventurous, filled with close interplay between the artists and contain plenty of variety in instrumentation, mood, and tempos.
Duo Encounters features twelve thoughtful, innovative performances of timeless jazz standards, arranged for a duo context, pairing Thomas with a ‘who’s who’ of jazz’s front-line. The album begins with a sultry rendition of “Love For Sale”, featuring pianist Helio Alves which exemplifies, from the very first downbeat, Thomas’ warm vocal tone and the intentionality and soul that the vocalist packs behind every note. Next, Thomas communes with Mr. Ron Carter for a spirited performance of “Willow Weep For Me”. This piece is one of the finest examples of the stellar interplay Thomas employs throughout the release with her duo partners.
Another highlight from the release is Thomas’ poignant rendition of “My Foolish Heart” alongside guitarist Russell Malone. Malone provides a perfect sonic backdrop over which Thomas’ vocals soar. A stunning and unique offering is Thomas’ take on the classic “Lush Life” alongside saxophonist Wayne Escoffery – Thomas’ vocal quality and story-telling harken back to the classic sounds of Nancy Wilson and Billie Holiday. Escoffery provides counter-melody lines that reflect the harmonic under-pinnings of the composition while perfectly complementing Thomas’ melodic refrains. Thomas demonstrates her complex rhythmic acuity on “Everytime We Say Goodbye”, delivering blues-tinged phrasing, circumlocuting the beat in a masterful way alongside bassist Noriko Ueda. The album concludes with a truly special rendition of “Round Midnight” featuring cellist Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf. The vocalist’s dulcet tones can be heard a cappella for a section prior to Dorman-Phaneuf’s contrapuntal accompaniment enters. The piece builds tremendously as vocals and cello weave around each other and ultimately fall into a stunning, descending unison line closing out the arrangement and this inventive release as a whole.
The vocalist notes “This album was birthed coming out of covid lockdown when I could finally enter the same room and create musically with one other musician. The intimacy of communication within the duo setting is thrilling. There is something so satisfying with simply two instruments. For Duo Encounters, I invited uniquely great instrumentalists that each have their own style to engage in musical conversations with my voice. This album is about creating, and revealing the deep parts of the musical journey.”