Lizzie Thomas

The upcoming release of Lizzie Thomasfifth album, Duo Encounters on Dot Time Records, is a major event. The inventive jazz singer, who has a beautiful voice and a swinging style, teams up with a dozen of her favorite artists to perform a set of intimate and adventurous duets. As usual, she 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.

Lizzie, born in Pittsburgh, grew up in Dalton, Georgia where her interest in music began at age 8 with the study of classical piano and clarinet.  She then discovered that she had a warm and appealing voice which led to private vocal study.

While growing up, Lizzie was drawn to pop, r&b and soul bands. But a turning point occurred when she was 18 and heard Billie Holiday for the first time. Her voice stopped me in my tracks. It was captivating. I was enthralled, and I had to know more. I listened to no other jazz vocalists except Billie for a year.  I wanted to know more: her song choices, her phrasing, and how she expressed emotion in her songs.  Billie taught me every song is personal and must be motivated by an emotion.”

Lizzie studied Commercial Vocal Jazz Performance at Belmont, was graduated with a BA where she continued graduate studies in Music Education with an emphasis on piano pedagogy.  Lizzie studied with Sandra Dudley who taught her how to convey emotion through jazz and the Great American Songbook. “These songs are timeless and their lyrics are still relevant today. I love that the songs allow for endless interpretation. And like Billie, I can make each song tell a story.”

In Nashville, Lizzie paid her dues. She played gigs, ran a piano studio, and deepened her jazz vocal skills. At that point, she moved to NYC where she has built her musical career for the last 15 years.  

Lizzie had a monthly residency at 90 Thompson St. in Soho that lasted a decade, performing in a trio with guitar (including at times Ron Affif or Pasquale Grasso) and bass. She has sung at nearly every major New York jazz club, theatre, and restaurant including sold out performances at Birdland, Triad Theatre, and Chelsea Table & Stage to name a few. During the Covid period, she created a virtual gig at the downtown Four Seasons Hotel called Jazz On 38. She also sings regularly in Nashville at Rudys Jazz Room and the Nashville Jazz Workshop. I have sat inall over the world as my travels have taken me as far as Singapore.  I love that in Chile I joined the band on stage without speaking any Spanish. I called a tune, gave a key and tempo, and off we were communicating in the language of music.”

Lizzie Thomas made her recording debut as a leader in 2010 with More Than You Know, a quartet set with clarinetist Attilio Troiano, pianist Michael Kanan, bassist Pat OLeary, and drummer Frank Levatino; she met all of the musicians while sitting in at Arturos. Her song choices were influenced by Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday. Although she would evolve and grow from this early starting point, she already displayed a beautiful voice and a strong connection to the material which included such classics as You Better Go Now,” “You Call It Madness,” “More Than You Know,” and Im A Fool To Want You.”

Lizzies second recording, 2013Easy To Love, has her joined by an all-star group that includes pianist Xavier Davis. He wrote these complex yet simple sounding arrangements for the nine-piece  band and brought the songs to life. These are truly some of my favorite songs to sing.” Highlights include such standards as You Do Something To Me,” “Close Your Eyes, ” an uptempo and often-wild version of One Note Samba,” and a soulful Easy To Love.” During the same sessions she also recorded Santa Baby, her heartfelt renditions of some of her favorite Christmas songs with Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” being a particular favorite.

The 2020 release of New Sounds From The Jazz Age was a major step forward for Lizzie. I wanted to throw myself in, be daring, and really challenge everything that I had learned thus far as a vocalist, musician, and band leader.” Singing in a septet that included pianist-arranger John Colianni, guitarist Russell Malone, and bassist Jay Leonhart, she uplifts such songs as Fascinating Rhythm,” “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” “Youd Be So Nice To Come Home To,” and I Didnt Know About You.” Whether scat-singing at fast tempos or caressing a ballad, or telling a charming story about the song, Lizzie displays her own attractive musical personality and shows that she had developed into one of New Yorks top jazz singers.

Duo Encounters, which will be released by Dot Time in March 2023, teams Lizzie 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. Lizzie shares the spotlight with pianists Helio Alves, John Di Martino, and Rossanno Sportiello, guitarists Russell Malone, Ron Affif, and Guilherme Monteiro, bassists Ron Carter (Willow Weep For Me”), Noriko Ueda, and Dezron Douglas (a version of Have You Met Miss Jones” that includes the rarely heard verse), percussionist Café (Nature Boy”), tenor-saxophonist Wayne Escoffery (Lush Life”), and cellist Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf (a haunting version of “’Round Midnight”). The result is a memorable set of superbly sung and often-surprising music, Lizzie Thomasmost rewarding recording to date.

During the pandemic, Lizzie introduced the Jazz Diva Collection. An homage to the women in Jazz. It is comprised of T-shirts (with handmade line drawings of Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Lizzie), drawstring bags (featuring drawings of the three), and candles (titled Evening Jazz, Jazz This, and Morning Jazz), all of which are available on her website.

When asked what qualities a song needs to have for her to want to perform it, Lizzie replied, I’m a lover of melody and lyrics. I love uncovering tunes that are unknown, but I also love reimagining standards with a great arrangement. Within my live show, surprising my audience with folk and nontraditional jazz selections is a must, and I have a special love for Brazilian music. If I have someone come up after my set and say, “I was transformed- it was as if I was in another space and time,” then I know I did it right.”