Center of the Rhyme
Lisa B merges singing, songwriting, and poetry-rap like no one else in today's jazz, soul, or pop. The 2003 CENTER OF THE RHYME is a huge step forward in Lisa B's creative development--jazzier and more acoustic than her previous release and revealing an evolved singing voice, new tunes that listeners won't forget, and 'an emotional range that makes lyrics sound like truth' (critic Ted Panken). Many of the Bay Area's best jazz players appear, including Frank Martin (keyboards), Mimi Fox and Dave Yamasaki (guitar), Bill Douglass and Chris Amberger (bass), Paul van Wageningen (drums), Michael Spiro (percussion), and Daria (vocals). CENTER OF THE RHYME was played on more than 120 jazz and smooth jazz stations and shows throughout the U.S. In 2003, Lisa B was featured in Jazziz magazine's Women in Jazz issue and their Blues issue; interviewed for international broadcast by Voice of America; interviewed by many radio stations across the country; and reviewed by numerous local publications. Here is some of what they said: JAZZIZ, 2003 'BLUES' ISSUE: With inspiration from Carmen McRae, John Coltrane, Gil Scott-Heron, and poet Garcia Lorca, San Francisco vocalist Lisa B's latest...opens with her spoken-sung homage 'Joe Williams Died Walking' followed by a swinging rendition of his signature tune...After hearing about the record, Joe Williams' widow contacted Lisa to request a copy. JAZZ TIMES: 'Center of the Rhyme' reveals a singer, spoken-word artist and poet with an incisive way of chronicling situations, memories and emotions. She sings with a pliable, expressive voice dipped in blue... B intercuts her smooth rendition of Bobby Caldwell's 'What You Won't Do for Love' with a rap, and turns saucily suggestive on 'Keeps Me Up All Night.' She sets her urgent poetic lyrics against a violin-driven, electro-fusion background on 'Be Electric,' and a spacious musical bed, highlighted by romantic saxophone, swirls around her imagistic vocals on the title track. JAZZIZ, 2003 'WOMEN IN JAZZ' ISSUE: Great pipes....talented songwriter. RITA ROCHELLE, VOICE OF AMERICA: A beautifully sensuous voice, so melodic...an excellent writer. She inspires us. JIM CLARK, KUSD-FM: Her poetry riffs and asides remind me of the jazz poetry of Chicago's great Ken Nordine. MONTEREY COUNTY HERALD: ...up-and-coming jazz singer Lisa B...brings a whole new take on some familiar songs as well as quirky originals, such as her 'Joe Williams Died Walking' that opens up her latest album...And she is a terrific lyricist, which you might expect from an accomplished poet, but comes as a revelation nonetheless. JONATHAN TAKIFF, PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS: Daring, dexterous singer/songwriter/poet Lisa B catches the 'Center of the Rhyme' (Piece of Pie), an imaginative set of originals with appeal to both traditional and contemporary jazz tastes and even, on occasion, hip-hop hipsters. JACKIE MCLEAN, SAX MASTER: Fresh, very interesting, impressive: Lisa B is a brand-new Somebody here. She definitely has a talent that´s all hers. Her music is both commercial and traditional. She has her own sound-a very nice voice. And the writing...I was lifted up by 'Be Electric.' 'A Place We Knew' is gorgeous, with gorgeous chord progressions... TED PANKEN (JAZZIZ, DOWNBEAT, WKCR-FM NEW YORK): On 'Center of the Rhyme,' singer-poet Lisa B, like all rugged individualists of the jazz tribe, articulates her accomplished narrative with a tonal personality entirely her own. She spins tales of desire and obsession, formally rigorous, filled with precise, striking images. Somehow, she finds clarity when such fundamental opposites as male and female collide and-following the eternal laws of dialectics-combust into a third dimension that transcends the sum of it's parts. ALLMUSIC.COM: Lisa Bernstein´s...mix of spoken word poetry (think rap for the uptown swing crowd) and passionate jazzy, high register vocalizing is...hard to resist in the sense that you´re never sure what she´s going to do next. Is it ruminating in words on the life, death and afterlife of Joe Williams (over an outstanding trio swing vibe that segues into her playful, straightforward singing on 'Every Day I Have the Blues')? Is it enhancing Bobby Caldwell´s 'What You Won´t Do For Love' with a whole new spoken story of a love deeper than Caldwell could have imagined?...Or another musical poem? The easy swinging, bluesy original 'Keeps Me Up All Night' is a snazzy romance that shows what [she]... can do with normal, engaging material. And 'A Place We Knew' reveals a thoughtful singer of solid phrasing and a good vocabulary of modern and traditional jazz. All the chit chat is cute, clever and definitely something that sets her apart...' BIO Raised in New York and Northern California, Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) was influenced by lots of literature and music as she grew up, including such friends of her parents as saxophone master Jackie McLean and the members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. She was inspired by jazz, soul, pop, rock, and show tunes. She studied classical piano from elementary school to high school and wrote songs and stories. She also wrote and studied poetry seriously since her teens, going on to earn bachelor's and master's degrees in creative writing at UC Santa Cruz and San Francisco State University, respectively. Two books of her poetry have been published, the chapbook 'Anorexia' (Five Fingers Poetry) and 'The Transparent Body' (Wesleyan University Press). Her poems have appeared in more than 50 literary magazines and anthologies. She has received grants and residencies from the National Endowment for the Arts, Headlands Center for the Arts, Ucross Foundation, Barbara Deming Memorial Fund/Money for Women, and Puffin Foundation. Lisa B's many public poetry readings in the San Francisco Bay Area evolved into performances. One was a two-night, sold-out piece at the leading experimental theatre The Lab that included dancers and live music. Lisa B then began to focus on songwriting, singing, and music, studying first at the Blue Bear School of Music, then with renowned Bay Area vocal coach Jane Sharp. Lisa was soon gigging frequently, performing jazz and selected pop standards along with her own compositions. She has since performed at more than 80 clubs, performance spaces, colleges, bookstores, and radio stations in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York. While often composing lyrics and music on her own, Lisa B enjoys co-writing with musicians, including singer-pianist Barbara Higbie (Windham Hill, women's music); Latin jazz trombonist-arranger Wayne Wallace (Patois Records); and her longtime cowriter/producer/engineer, composer Jim Gardiner (Pharoah Sanders, Rickie Lee Jones, David Grisman, Seattle Symphony, and numerous Bay Area rap and soul artists). Lisa B also applies her spirit of inventive collaboration to existing compositions. One example is Lisa B's heartrending poem "Trane's Ride" performed with Coltrane's "Naima" (featured on FREE ME FOR THE JOY and remastered on THE POETRY OF GROOVE). Another is her merging of Cole Porter's "Night and Day" with Lisa's magical poetic rap "The Cat Goddess" on WHAT'S NEW, PUSSYCAT? and THE POETRY OF GROOVE. CENTER OF THE RHYME contains two such transformations: Lisa's poetic homage "Joe Williams Died Walking" performed with "Every Day I Have the Blues" and Bobby Caldwell's "What You Won't Do for Love" with new poetic rap. On Lisa B's first three CDs (the 1999 FREE ME FOR THE JOY, 2003's CENTER OF THE RHYME, and 2006's WHAT'S NEW, PUSSYCAT?), she was a pioneer in merging spoken word and singing within her originals and re-envisioned covers, spanning swing, Latin, smooth hip-hop, and soulful pop. In 2009, with THE POETRY OF GROOVE, Lisa B leaps from this foundation into a direct flight path - an entire set giving listeners Lisa's uniquely seductive poetic rap and hooky choruses over jazzy hip-hop & electronica grooves. The CD includes 5 tracks of new material in various mixes, plus 5 tracks of remixed/ remastered spoken-word groove tunes from her past 3 CDs. Other Previous CDs: The 1999 FREE ME FOR THE JOY is Lisa B's first full-length release, on her own Piece of Pie Records. Mostly originals, it includes such stellar players as John Santos (Machete) and Curtis Ohlson (Ray Charles' band). - Jonathan Widran wrote about it in Jazziz: "No doubt the smooth-jazz and adult-contemporary success of the likes of Sade, Anita Baker, and Marilyn Scott inspired Lisa Bernstein to give things a shot with a dramatic, drawn-out, emotional voice that is a dead ringer for that of Dianne Reeves. Reeves and the others, however, focus on their pipes and leave the songwriting to either classic songwriters or to today's best tunesmiths, whereas, Bernstein writes her own material." - Paula Edelstein wrote on jazzreview.com: "Award-winning singer-songwriter-poet Lisa B blends experimental poetry, pop, soul and jazz on her first full-length recording." (FREE ME FOR THE JOY was added to the playlists of more than 85 commercial and noncommercial radio stations across the country in 1999-2000, including charting and heavy rotation, in jazz, smooth jazz, college, triple A, women's, new age, and other formats.) On her third CD, WHAT'S NEW, PUSSYCAT?: TUNES & TALES ABOUT COOL CATS (2006), Lisa B explores the magical contrasts embodied by the cat and personified by humans: wild/cozy, passionate/independent, playful/fierce. The CD combines original compositions with Lisa B's refreshing takes on Burt Bacharach/Hal David, Graham Nash, and Cole Porter. She again features some of the Bay Area's best jazz musicians: Frank Martin and Ben Flint (keyboards), Danny Caron (guitar), Chris Amberger, Troy Lampkins, and John Shifflett (bass), Paul van Wageningen and Alan Hall (drums), and John Santos (percussion). Their combined talents takes the listener on a journey that is delightful and deep, cool and hot. This CD also got extensive radio play with charting on jazz and other stations. Critical response: - "Lisa B is a wild ride...let her entertain you...you don't trip over pipes like these everyday." -Midwest Record Recap - "The force is strong with this one... creativity on a level that will soar above many." - girlsingers.org - "...sultry and witty and not at all precious. Some songs are overt in their references to their subject (the title track and the singer's own 'Slay Me (My Young Cat)'), some less so ('You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To'), but she sings all of them in a sensual, throaty voice... Her own songs are fun and sexy, and she brings a fresh voice to well-known songs. At first, I was reluctant to take 'What's New, Pussycat?' seriously because of it's playfulness and overt sexuality. I've found that I play it all the time, and like it more with each listen... Great musicians make 'What's New, Pussycat?' come alive and help Lisa B keep the atmosphere fun and swinging... Fun, impressively played and sung, and, yes, very sexy. - soundstageav.com.
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