Like her early hero Nina Simone and contemporary artists like Lizz Wright and Gregory Porter, South Side native Lucy Smith sits comfortably in the place where jazz, folk and soul converge. And like those singers, she has the range and personality to explore those styles, and more, in convincing fashion. She can go down deep into a ballad with her lustrous tones or swing through space to lilting effect. Her band, Autumn in Augusta, featuring longtime accompanists Marcus Evans (drums), Marcin Fahmy (piano) and Joshua Ramos(bass), was inspired by her late mother, a Georgian who exposed her to the ’60s sounds of Simone, folk great Josh White, South African singer Miriam Makeba and pop folk star Trini Lopez. As she revealed on her album, Songs My Mama Would Like, Smith knows how to bring any and all of her influences affectingly up to date.
Lucy Smith: As a preamble to the events at Millennium Park, several sets will unfold in the afternoon at the Chicago Cultural Center. The performances stretch from 12:15 to 4:30 p.m., with soulful singer Smith a major enticement. Longtime listeners heard her in the 1990s with the long-gone Ensemble Stop-Time, then based at Columbia College Chicago's Center for Black Music Research. Since then, Smith has flourished in jazz, gospel, blues and related genres, all of which figure into her work to varying degrees. 1:45 p.m., Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center.
The Conversation: Songs of Home
...Tell us how you combine your music with your activism/involvement in the community?
As much as I can, I lend my voice, band and organizing skills to fundraising efforts and awareness campaigns for community organizations and projects. This Spring I played a benefit concert for the Adjoin Fund, an emerging organization formed to join with African American male youth, grades six through eight, on their quest to become better readers. For the past five years, I’ve volunteered to produce and coordinate the music stage for the Artists of the Wall Festival. It’s a project of the Loyola Park Advisory Council. The festival just completed its 22nd year. It brings together neighbors of all ages to collaborate on a 600-foot lakefront mural at Loyola Park Beach in Rogers Park. Complementing all of this joyous creativity is a free music festival. Of late I’ve been singing at far too many tributes/memorials for much loved activists and community leaders. I’ve figured out that there’s a healthy chunk of my calendar year where my volunteer efforts take up more time than work that generates income. But so far, it feels just right...
At Chicago's Fourth Presbyterian Church, located at the top of the city's Magnificent Mile, each Sunday at 4 p.m. the Lucy Smith Quartet draws heavily from sacred offerings like Coltrane's "Dear Lord," and songs from his A Love Supreme album. Adam Fronczek, associate pastor for adult education and worship, started the weekly services in mid-2010 to reach people who didn't grow up in church or had stopped coming and wanted to return. Fronczek found jazz particularly useful because he sees the music as theologically rich. "There's a musical journey that goes on with a piece of jazz music that I think mirrors our journey through the life of faith," he said, referring to improvisation that occurs during performance. As he sees it, life's routines, like familiar melodies, can abruptly veer to the uncharted and reveal new truths, and then ease back into a comfortable groove.
Chicago-based jazz vocalist Lucy Smith is both a talented songwriter and a gifted interpreter of other people's songs. Nowhere is that more obvious than in her splendid rendition of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," the opening track on her disc "Movin' On" (lucysmithjazz.com). Chuck Mangione's "Chase the Clouds Away" and Bob Telson's "Calling You" also benefit from Smith's technique. Smith originals, including the jazzy "All I Meant," the powerful "Passing for Normal" and the hilarious country cheatin' song "I-N-F-I-D-E-L-I-T-Y" are truly inspired and deserve to be heard by everyone.
A "gifted young vocalist."
With a mature and confident voice, Lucy covers the spectrum -- offering jazz, blues and some funky R&B. Her arrangements are artful, the songwriting smart and there are some wonderful surprises. So listen and enjoy!
Lucy Smith scores 9/10 from this presenter. Every now and then someone comes along who takes an extraordinary well known song like "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin" and just doesn't cover it. Her version becomes a total musical and vocal reinterpretation. Also her versions of "Chase The Clouds Away" and "I Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues" are right on the money. But her talent doesn't stop there. Lucy is also no slouch as a songwriter and arranger. Her mature honey smooth vocal style seeps into the mind and soul of the listener, and her superb backing band provide the finishing touches. I hope that Lucy Smith is "Movin' On" right into the studio for her next outing.
Robin On The Radio - 2TENFM (89.7 & 98.7) -Tenterfield New South Wales & Stanthorpe Queensland Australia
Lucy's got a powerful rich voice, no doubt. She is singing with a confidence that makes us anxious to listen. It is an appealing signature placed over tight R&B on natural instruments. Smith sings a mix of freshened covers and originals. There's both soul and gospel on "Go Down Moses" with a solo from Greg Ward (sax). We also liked "Passing For Normal" and "I Ain't Got Nothin' But the Blues". This is a voice to be reckoned with!
The rich, deep, Lucy Smith sound seeps down in your soul and stirs it forward. Whether she's singing about love lost or newly found, she moves your heart to a warm place in the sun.
...the jazzier "Kiela," the longing-fueled "All I Meant," and her sassy rendition "Go Down Moses" simply shouldn't be missed.
Soulful, funky and heartfelt describes the music of Lucy Smith. Rich textures and colorful yet comical beats blend the music as well. Did I say Comical? Listen to the well-done I-N-F-I-D-E-L-I-T-Y, serious yet comical. A great musical contrast and not to mention, daring as well. Thank you Lucy!
...vocalist Lucy Smith's mellifluous smooth as butter vocals...immediately grab your attention.
Chicago Sounds Lush with Lucy Smith - A Music Review by Brian Murphy
"American Idol" must really get under Lucy Smith's skin. The show, which rewards the "talents" of singers with dubious musical training and education, is antithetical to hard-working vocalists like Ms. Smith. She has earned both a Bachelors degree in music from Columbia College in Chicago and a master's in jazz studies (Vocal Performance) from Roosevelt University.
She has been a vocalist for blues and jazz bands since the early 1990's, is the leader and arranger for the Lucy Smith Quartet/Trio, has appeared in a variety of plays, including "The Vagina Monologues," been featured in music segments for television shows, and has performed at Chicago venues such as the HotHouse, Park West, Pete Miller's, House of Blues (Foundation Room) and Speakeasy Supper Club.
Lucy Smith sounds as if she would be as comfortable playing to a packed House of Blues Crowd as she would to 12 people at The Green Mill on a Tuesday night. Her vocals maintain complexities while sounding effortless.
Ms. Smith's quivering intonations on the gospel cover "Go Down Moses" provide emotive emphasis on the cry for freedom, while the percussions, trumpet and piano of her accompanying band punctuate the sentiment when Smith declares, "Let my people go."
On "Kiela," her voice permeates the room through black speakers and enters the soul through aural osmosis. "Kiela" is funky without losing its jazz base, containing the right mix of instrumental experimentation and structural songwriting, thrusting a bebop breakdown between lyrics like: an endless show of lives with many voices/She knows their days are made from simple choices. Well, Lucy made the right choices when she picked her backing band-they superbly accent her smooth voice.
Playful, mellow and full of soul, Lucy Smith is virtually a Chicago institution. Fans of jazz, blues, funk and r&b should check out www.lucysmithjazz.com for information on her upcoming shows.