It may not be immediately obvious from the engaging ebullience of Elizabeth Shepherd’s performances, but making a boundary-testing album like Parkdale with producer Ben Lamdin (Nostalgia 77) is a very bold move for the rising Toronto artist. Someone with Shepherd’s vocal talent could easily have knocked out a sweet set of romantic standards that would’ve sold loads to fans of Diana Krall and Sophie Millman. Instead, she has chosen to reveal more of what she can do as a songwriter and pianist.
Not unlike Joni Mitchell, Shepherd uses the constructs of jazz along with elements of the folk and soul traditions to build a contemporary sound all her own. The free-flowing openness of her improvisational exchanges with her talented sidemen ultimately turns Parkdale into a more adventurous jazz odyssey than anyone might’ve expected, and Lamdin does a superb job of documenting the action as it happens. Very impressive.
Elizabeth Shepherd launches Parkdale at the Gladstone May 9.