Too many female jazz vocalists are pigeonholed into a tired come-hither sensibility with material to match. Elizabeth Shepherd treads another path than the glamour-seeking ingenues by building her music up from a solid foundation of her groove-leaning trio.
The debut recording of the Elizabeth Shepherd Trio, Start To Move, stakes out its own turf. Shepherds musical personality derives from unusual origins, as the daughter of two Salvation Army ministers. "I started out doing church music, which got me started on the improvisational thing. I did classical my whole life and got tired of that, and I was never that interested in rock. It seemed like jazz was the logical thing to go to.
Her trio feels different than most piano-led threesomes; this isnt a leader with two followers, everyone plays as a team, with a democratic and subtle funkiness throughout. Her vocals are refreshing in their lack of artifice and bassist Scott Kemp and drummer Colin Kingsmore are expert accompanists, with the latter frequently laying down some righteous grooves.
One secret weapon is her label, Do Right Records, known for their recent comps of CBC jazz archives. Start To Move is produced by label head (and Toronto DJ stalwart) John Kong, and nods to the gritty groove-jazz of the late 60s. Do Right is better known among global nu-jazz connoisseurs than jazz festival bookers, so notoriety will more likely come from remixes, such as one just completed by Nostalgia 77, than from touring. Wherever the road leads, Shepherd is amazed at the success so far.
"This has happened pretty fast. Two years ago I just started playing out, then a year ago I started playing with the trio, so this isnt something that Ive been thinking long and hard about. Its exciting for me that people are remixing this for a dance music audience; my second passion is house music, so just to know that I could end up dancing to one of my tunes is awesome.