Jazz music, Junos and journeys

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(Photo by Jessica Dik)
(Photo by Jessica Dik)

Despite the relentless gusts of wind and bursts of flurries in Waterloo, The Jazz Room on King Street welcomed a very special guest to the stage on Friday Jan. 24. Travelling all the way from Montreal by train, Elizabeth Shepherd arrived at the venue and was immediately drawn to the piano where she sat, in her winter boots, preparing for a night of jazz and entertainment.
Three-time Juno nominee, Shepherd is no stranger to performances in her career. In preparation for her performance she admitted, “there is always a little bit [of adrenaline]. It keeps you focused, concentrated and shows you care about what you are doing.”

Shepherd’s previous album Rewind was released in July 2012 and featured 13 cover tracks which enabled her to pursue her own individuality with twists on infamous pieces such as “Feeling Good,” initially performed by Nina Simone. Tracks from Rewind were played throughout this show and her continued dedication to the music was incredible to witness. Shepherd swayed as she sang while her body kept perfect pace with the rhythm of the drum.

Not only is Shepherd classically vocally trained, she also creates a jazz-style beatbox to accompany the amalgamation of musical instruments on stage with her.
Shepherd’s fifth studio album, The Signal, will be released in May 2014. This new record is nearing completion as the last steps, artwork and overall design, are in the final stages.

“It’s always good to feel like the thing you are working on is the thing you are the most proud of so far. It would suck to be at the point where you think ‘man that album three albums ago was the top and it is downhill from here,’” she explained.

While music chart success is typically defined by how well an artist’s single is received, Shepherd is focusing on creating a cohesive sound and not individual sound bites.

“It’s a concept album in that it starts out and takes you on a journey and is seamless. In this day of people downloading single tracks or streaming songs [it is] a weird way to go but, artistically, I really wanted to have some kind of vision.”

This performance was the second last show of her current tour; however, this night was particularly special. Typically, Shepherd travels as a trio with her bandmates Scott Kemp on bass and Colin Kingsmore playing drums, but on Friday night, Thom Gil joined the group on stage.

“Thom’s a super talented guitar player. He will be on tour with us for the new [album]. We wanted to start playing together before we [began] playing the new material.”

Gil’s skillset complimented the performance and his guitar riffs paired perfectly with Shepherd’s radiant vocals and the beat of the drums. Improvisation is one of the pillars of jazz music, and the group adjusted effortlessly.

“That is what is so beautiful about jazz. It’s a sophisticated form in that you [always] have to be on your toes, changing and willing to go somewhere.”

The lights in the old brick building were dim, the seats were filled and the music reverberated perfectly throughout the venue. Her fingers glided over the piano keys while her unique raspy yet smooth voice enchanted the audience. The trio, accompanied by their newest addition, played flawlessly and passionately.


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