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Jazz Vocalist LISA RICH Releases "LONG AS YOU'RE LIVING," Her Stunning Comeback

After a long hiatus, vocalist LISA RICH is releasing her newest album, LONG AS YOU'RE LIVING, a collection primarily of standards that reflect many of the trials, tribulations, and life lessons she has experienced over the years. Rich had a burgeoning career in the 1980s until she was sidelined with a debilitating illness. But with determination and the help and encouragement of her dear friend, the late JAY CLAYTON, she was able to find her voice again and return to the recording studio. What we hear on LONG AS YOU'RE LIVING is a true jazz singer, with the warmth, assurance and inventiveness that comes from a lifetime immersed in the music.

The recipient of three grants from the National Endowment of the Arts, Rich performed at The Kennedy Center, was an artist in residence at The Smithsonian Institution, and was featured numerous times on National Public Radio and Voice of America. She also released two well-regarded albums, Touch of the Rare (1985) with the Clare Fischer Quartet and Listen Here (1983). She had recorded a third album in 1987, Highwire, comprising original songs by Chick Corea, whom she had met at a concert in Washington, DC. After meeting him backstage, Corea generously gave her several of his original songs that had never been recorded by a vocalist.

Her ongoing medical problem put that record and her career on hold. Earlier, in the 1970s, doctors had told Rich that if she really wanted to be a singer and travel, she would need back surgery, so she went ahead with the procedure. A decade later, her back problems returned, and she experienced pain every time she sang. Rather than go through the dangerous surgery again, Rich stopped performing and became a full-time vocal teacher. She finally released Highwire in 2019, marking the beginning of her comeback. Leonard Feather said in The Los Angeles Times, "The complaint has often been lodged that no young jazz singers are coming up to take over from the Fitzgeralds and Vaughans. Every once in a while, a singer such as Lisa Rich will come along and give the lie to this theory."

Setting aside her singing career was truly a heartache for Rich, but appearing before a crowd of people was just too emotionally fraught, because she did not want to be seen as a performer with disabilities. Her attitude, fueled by anger at her plight, began to change when she gave a eulogy at her mother's funeral. Rich says, "Speaking in front of people made me think that if I could do that, why can't I get in front of people and sing." Her first foray into live performance was at a jazz church in 2018 where she sang nine songs for an audience of 350 people.

With Jay Clayton's friendship and support, Rich finally returned to the studio to record LONG AS YOU'RE LIVING. Rich says, "I loved Jay. She was so brilliant and so spiritual. She loved music and teaching, and it was her love and guidance that gave me the confidence to record a new album."

Clayton was co-producing the album, along with Rich and Bob Dawson, an engineer responsible for dozens of Grammy-winning albums, when Clayton was diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, she did not live long enough to see the project through completion, and this album is dedicated to her memory.

For LONG AS YOU'RE LIVING, Rich brought on board several East Coast heavyweights, including pianist MARC COPLAND, bassist DREW GRESS, and trumpeter DAVE BALLOU.

For Rich, the title of the album is bittersweet. Despite all that she had been through, she wanted her song choices to represent her ultimately positive outlook on life. However, the recent death of a dear friend gave the title a deeper poignancy.

Rich opens the album with the title track, "Long As You're Living, " one of Clayton's favorites. The lyrics convey the need to live life to the fullest considering the brevity of life. "Always remember / time is for spendin' / but there's an ending / while you are sleepin' / lifetime is creepin' / wake up and taste it / foolish to waste it."



"Throw It Away" is an Abbey Lincoln song that resonates with Rich because it carries the message to keep your heart open and peel away negativity. Rich dedicates "When I Look in Your Eyes" to a close friend who unexpectedly lost her son.

"New Morning Blues" was written by Clayton, known for her free jazz vocal explorations. Rich's superb wordless interpretation was based on a sax solo by Paul Desmond. Without a doubt, Rich's performance would have pleased her mentor. "Lonely Woman" is a song about leaving a bad situation and finding happiness. Rich was given the lyrics for "Isotope" 35 years ago by pianist Steve Kuhn.

Jimmy Rowles renamed his classic composition, "The Peacocks, " when vocalist Norma Winstone presented him with her beautiful lyrics, "A Timeless Place." Rich and the band play "Jitterbug Waltz" in loose time, giving the song a free-floating feeling. Rich does a swinging version of "Close Your Eyes" over modern comping by Copland on piano.

The lyrics to "Ask Me Now" resonate with Rich because of her lived experience of rejecting a romantic interest only to change her mind and then find it was too late. Rich performed "Bye Bye Blackbird" in an online concert setting during the Covid lockdown. Her interpretation then was to bid farewell to the pandemic. Rich closes the album with a mashup of "Haperchance, " a scat piece written by Clayton with music from Gymnopedie 1 by Erik Satie, and lyrics "Drifting Dreaming, " by Don Read.

Lisa Rich has always been a singer whose connection to lyrics is genuine and heartfelt, but the physical challenges she's experienced have made her a more deeply empathetic and sensitive singer. Rich has persevered through it all and triumphed with her warm, smoky voice and a level of depth and wisdom that only comes from maturity and experience.

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LONG AS YOU'RE LIVING will be released on Tritone Records on June 21, 2024 and will be available on all digital platforms.



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