Poetry of Groove
On THE POETRY OF GROOVE, Lisa B weaves playful, poetic rap & sultry choruses over jazzy hip-hop & electronica grooves. Start by imagining Joni Mitchell + Jill Scott + the Verve Remix series. Then listen for yourself. Her spoken word draws you in with crystal-clear imagery, storytelling, and a voice that seems to speak directly to you. And she can sing. "Her voice is a lovely instrument, her timbre warm, her phrasing fluid... an emotional range that makes lyrics sound like truth," writes critic Ted Panken. Fun, insightful, & intimate, Lisa B will inspire you to dance, chill, listen -and find your very own poetry of groove. MARK SALESKI, Blogcritics.com, January 28, 2010: 'I've always been attracted to, uhmm.....'non-standard' listening...Lene Lovich, Kate Bush, Yoko Ono, The Roches, Meredith Monk, and Bjork. This doesn't mean that I don't enjoy 'regular' singers. Far from it. In the jazz world, there's always room for a daily shot of Abbey Lincoln, Shirley Horn, Billie Holiday, Diana Krall, and Cassandra Wilson. But for a higher resonance factor, my ears want to hear something different...The only problem here...is that sometimes the humanity and emotion can get masked by the perceived strangeness of the presentation. I had this problem when I first heard Kate Bush...but was won over after a single listen... With Lisa B (that would be Bernstein), there was never any doubt. I was hooked when I first heard what she did with 'What's New, Pussycat?.' Yes, Bacharach and David wrote it, and Tom Jones took off with it, but Lisa B put a very cool spin on it. On 'The Poetry of Groove,' Lisa B takes her spoken word beautifully sung excursions and wraps them up in a bunch of snazzy grooves that vary from hip-hop to slinky jazzification. On the spiritually uplifting 'Get The Signal,' the grooves are built from a sparse outline (thanks to what sounds like a kalimba) into something more earthy and insistent. The title track's hopeful message ('...It's the things you crave that fill you with singing...') is set up with a slow burn that opens up with the addition of strings, backing vocals, and piano & funk guitar accents. On 'Trane's Ride (Naima) (Remastered),' Bernstein delivers some very evocative poetry over a hip-hop mashup of the Coltrane classic. All is not serious here though, as 'Virtual Kiss (Remix)' jokes about dissatisfaction with a life of office work. Wait...maybe that's not so funny! Even so, I did laugh at the line 'Did I go to college for this?' On this track Lisa B also adds some terrific backing vocals with slightly off-kilter harmonies. Maybe they're not as off-kilter as the idea of spending an entire working life in a cubicle. Oh, did I mention that Lisa B can bring the sexy? 'Turning It Around (Remix)' is carried by a sultry groove that kicks in after the breathy opening of 'Turn around....just like that...ahhhh...' A peach is then used as a metapho.....uhhhh, what were we talking about? In a world that pretty much drips of fresh cynicism, music such as that found on 'The Poetry of Groove' becomes all the more important.' ---------------------------------- MICHAEL E. ROSS of Culchavox.blogspot.com, on Amazon: "...on 'The Poetry of Groove,'... Lisa's signature alto, by turns smoky and lapidary, awakens us to her spiritual travels with infectious rhythms and witticisms that are seductively inviting... She brings a refreshingly maverick cadence to the spoken-word experience. In 'The Poetry of Groove' and 'Get the Signal,' Lisa explores the record's central themes: a call to spiritualism and more reliance on our deeper, more humanistic inclinations. But this ain't no lecture: Lisa brings the musical passion behind her spiritual manifesto... with her love of jazz, Latin rhythm and hip-hop's lyric sensibilities. The remix of 'Virtual Kiss' [has]... nothing missing in terms of it's nervous, thoroughly modern dissonance. Hearing it today, more than 10 years after the first version, Lisa's lyrics ring eerily prophetic; this clever take on the persistence of technology and how the ways of the heart struggle to rise in a digital, cubicled world has more pertinence now than it did a dozen years ago. Lisa's inclusion of a remastered version of 'Night and Day' (from 'What's New, Pussycat?') may be the best distillation of where she's at as a singer and, more basically, as an evolving artist. This combination of a faithful vocal reading of the Cole Porter classic with her own feline-inspired poetic interpolation remains a reminder of what makes her so fiercely original. ...the jazzy-chill edit of the title track, which closes the album...[w]ith it's lush string accents and a deft balance of vocal and instrumental prowess... shapes up as the perfect closing statement... on an album that capably and joyously brings the talents of a true musical iconoclast front and center again." ------------------------------ MIDWEST RECORD, CHRIS SPECTOR: 'Three years ago, B established herself as our fave Catwoman since Julie Newmar and now we find her moving back to her writer self and bringing her poetry slam side to the fore. Much more Jill Scott than Rod McKuen, B continues to ride the progressive tip with a creative abandon that makes it seem easy to break convention and get away with it. As sexy as you can sound without being a ...70s diva." ----------------------- I HEAR SPARKS COLUMN BY JORDAN RICHARDSON, Blogcritics.com, December 2, 2009: "Funky, fresh and sexy as all hell, Lisa B's 'The Poetry of Groove' is an impressive collection of remixes and new pieces. The beauty of what Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) does is wrapped up in her seamless blending of jazz, hip-hop, soul, spoken word and popular music. Her approach to her craft is invigorating, cementing herself as an artist excited to take risks and make moves that other artists might stray from. Lisa B makes the blend work, oozing sexuality and clever cool without coming across as pompous or tacky... Bolstered by her pedigree as a poet, Lisa B's command of lyricism is manifest with each piece. She is, after all, the author of two books of poetry ('Anorexia' and 'The Transparent Body') and it shows in her approach to songwriting. Lisa B paints pictures with her command of language, going beyond uncomplicated metaphors to tell entire stories with her art. The title track is given the privilege of three separate mixes, forming the foundation for the record with it's smooth grooves and slick beats. The 'Jazzy Chill Mix' starts the record off with polished beats and Lisa B's spoken word vocals. She's alluring, venturing through various tones and moods throughout the course of the song. The 'Edit of Jazzy Chill Mix' closes the record in similar fashion, while the 'House Mix' packs in a danceable beat. 'Be Electric (Electronica Remix)' is a sophisticated, sleek cut that makes great use out of Lisa's hushed, breathy tones and funky witticisms. The remastered 'Trane's Ride (Naima)' is my favourite song on the record. It uses Coltrane's piece to underline Lisa's deeply seductive lyrics, creating fiery waves of sensuality and sexiness. The beat, provided by James Richard's drum and bass programming, pulsates and vibrates in time to Lisa's hot vocal performance. Other cuts, like 'Get the Signal' and 'Virtual Kiss,' allow Lisa to do more singing. She shows off her jazz pipes, gracefully dancing through various tones and moods with delight and style. All in all, 'The Poetry of Groove' is a sexy and exciting collection of tunes from one of the most daring and deft performers I've come across in a while." ----------------------------------------------------------------------- BIO Raised in New York and Northern California, Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) was influenced by lots of literature and music as she grew up, including such friends of her parents as saxophone master Jackie McLean and the members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. She was inspired by jazz, soul, pop, rock, and show tunes. She studied classical piano from elementary school to high school and wrote songs and stories. She also wrote and studied poetry seriously since her teens, going on to earn bachelor's and master's degrees in creative writing at UC Santa Cruz and San Francisco State University, respectively. Two books of her poetry have been published, the chapbook Anorexia (Five Fingers Poetry) and The Transparent Body (Wesleyan University Press). Her poems have appeared in more than 50 literary magazines and anthologies. She has received grants and residencies from the National Endowment for the Arts, Headlands Center for the Arts, Ucross Foundation, Barbara Deming Memorial Fund/Money for Women, and Puffin Foundation. Lisa B's many public poetry readings in the San Francisco Bay Area evolved into performances. One was a two-night, sold-out piece at the leading experimental theatre The Lab that included dancers and live music. Lisa B then began to focus on songwriting, singing, and music, studying first at the Blue Bear School of Music, then with renowned Bay Area vocal coach Jane Sharp. Lisa was soon gigging frequently, performing jazz and selected pop standards along with her own compositions. She has since performed at more than 80 clubs, performance spaces, colleges, bookstores, and radio stations in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York. While often composing lyrics and music on her own, Lisa B enjoys co-writing with musicians, including singer-pianist Barbara Higbie (Windham Hill, women's music); Latin jazz trombonist-arranger Wayne Wallace (Patois Records); and her longtime cowriter/producer/engineer, composer Jim Gardiner (Pharoah Sanders, Rickie Lee Jones, David Grisman, Seattle Symphony, and numerous Bay Area rap and soul artists). Lisa B also applies her spirit of inventive collaboration to existing compositions. One example is Lisa B's heartrending poem "Trane's Ride" performed with Coltrane's "Naima." Another is her merging of Cole Porter's "Night and Day" with Lisa's magical poetic rap "The Cat Goddess." Her second full-length CD CENTER OF THE RHYME contains two such transformations: Lisa's poetic homage "Joe Williams Died Walking" performed with "Every Day I Have the Blues" and Bobby Caldwell's "What You Won't Do for Love" with new poetic rap. On Lisa B's three previous well-received CDs (1999, 2003, and 2006), she was a pioneer in merging spoken word and singing within her originals and re-envisioned covers, spanning swing, Latin, smooth hip-hop, and soulful pop. Now with THE POETRY OF GROOVE, Lisa B leaps from this foundation into her true flight path - an entire set giving listeners Lisa's uniquely seductive poetic rap and hooky choruses over jazzy hip-hop & electronica grooves. The CD includes 5 tracks of new material in various mixes, plus 5 tracks of remixed/ remastered spoken-word groove tunes from her past 3 CDs. Previous CDs: The 1999 FREE ME FOR THE JOY is Lisa B's first full-length release, on her own Piece of Pie Records. Mostly originals, it includes such stellar players as John Santos (Machete) and Curtis Ohlson (Ray Charles' band). - Jonathan Widran wrote about it in Jazziz: "No doubt the smooth-jazz and adult-contemporary success of the likes of Sade, Anita Baker, and Marilyn Scott inspired Lisa Bernstein to give things a shot with a dramatic, drawn-out, emotional voice that is a dead ringer for that of Dianne Reeves. Reeves and the others, however, focus on their pipes and leave the songwriting to either classic songwriters or to today's best tunesmiths, whereas, Bernstein writes her own material." - Paula Edelstein wrote on jazzreview.com: "Award-winning singer-songwriter-poet Lisa B blends experimental poetry, pop, soul and jazz on her first full-length recording." (FREE ME FOR THE JOY was added to the playlists of more than 85 commercial and noncommercial radio stations across the country in 1999-2000, including charting and heavy rotation, in jazz, smooth jazz, college, triple A, women's, new age, and other formats.) CENTER OF THE RHYME (2003), jazzier and more acoustic, revealed an evolved singing voice. Many of the Bay Area's best jazz players appear, including Frank Martin (keyboards), Mimi Fox and Dave Yamasaki (guitar), Bill Douglass and Chris Amberger (bass), Paul van Wageningen (drums), Michael Spiro (percussion), and Daria (vocals). - The Philadelphia Daily News wrote about it: "Daring, dexterous singer/songwriter/poet... imaginative originals with appeal to both traditional and contemporary jazz tastes and even, on occasion, hip-hop hipsters." - Jazz Times wrote: "...reveals a singer, spoken-word artist and poet with an incisive way of chronicling situations, memories and emotions. She sings with a pliable, expressive voice dipped in blue... B intercuts her smooth rendition of Bobby Caldwell's 'What You Won't Do for Love' with a rap, and turns saucily suggestive on 'Keeps Me Up All Night.'"...A spacious musical bed, highlighted by romantic saxophone, swirls around her imagistic vocals on the title track. (CENTER OF THE RHYME was played on more than 120 jazz and smooth jazz stations and shows throughout the U.S.) On her third CD, WHAT'S NEW, PUSSYCAT?: TUNES & TALES ABOUT COOL CATS (2006), Lisa B explores the magical contrasts embodied by the cat and personified by humans: wild/cozy, passionate/independent, playful/fierce. The CD combines original compositions with Lisa B's refreshing takes on Burt Bacharach/Hal David, Graham Nash, and Cole Porter. She again features some of the Bay Area's best jazz musicians: Frank Martin and Ben Flint (keyboards), Danny Caron (guitar), Chris Amberger, Troy Lampkins, and John Shifflett (bass), Paul van Wageningen and Alan Hall (drums), and John Santos (percussion). Their combined talents takes the listener on a journey that is delightful and deep, cool and hot. This CD also got extensive radio play with charting on jazz and other stations. Critical response: - "Lisa B is a wild ride...let her entertain you...you don't trip over pipes like these everyday." -Midwest Record Recap - "The force is strong with this one... creativity on a level that will soar above many." - girlsingers.org - "...sultry and witty and not at all precious. Some songs are overt in their references to their subject (the title track and the singer's own 'Slay Me (My Young Cat)'), some less so ('You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To'), but she sings all of them in a sensual, throaty voice... Her own songs are fun and sexy, and she brings a fresh voice to well-known songs. At first, I was reluctant to take 'What's New, Pussycat?' seriously because of it's playfulness and overt sexuality. I've found that I play it all the time, and like it more with each listen... Great musicians make 'What's New, Pussycat?' come alive and help Lisa B keep the atmosphere fun and swinging... Fun, impressively played and sung, and, yes, very sexy. - soundstageav.com.