Ledisi - Lost and Found (2007)

Ledisi
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"Hip" and "cool" are the first words to come to mind when listening to Lost and Found, the third project from soul singer, Ledisi. Like the long-legged strut Ledisi sported as she stole the show on the PBS Special, We All Love Ella, Ledisi's debut on Verve Records is one long, confident swagger. And why not? Ledisi has plenty to be proud of these days. With a rock solid international fan base and critically-acclaimed guest spots on recent tribute albums for Luther Vandross, Ella Fitzgerald and Earth, Wind and Fire, Ledisi has aimed for her own peerless legacy with stunning accuracy. On Lost and Found, Ledisi shows she is a singer with nothing left to prove, she's an artist who's arrived. She's not arrived alone; the New Orleans born, Oakland bred singer gives fans a project more buoyant and-dare I say-"radio-ready" than anything she has produced before.

"Hip" and "cool" are the first words to come to mind when listening to Lost and Found, the third project from soul singer, Ledisi. Like the long-legged strut Ledisi sported as she stole the show on the PBS Special, We All Love Ella, Ledisi's debut on Verve Records is one long, confident swagger. And why not? Ledisi has plenty to be proud of these days. With a rock solid international fan base and critically-acclaimed guest spots on recent tribute albums for Luther Vandross, Ella Fitzgerald and Earth, Wind and Fire, Ledisi has aimed for her own peerless legacy with stunning accuracy. On Lost and Found, Ledisi shows she is a singer with nothing left to prove, she's an artist who's arrived. She's not arrived alone; the New Orleans born, Oakland bred singer gives fans a project more buoyant and-dare I say-"radio-ready" than anything she has produced before.

Before fans begin wincing and moaning, Lost and Found, while on the major Verve label, is far from a commercial sell-out project. Ledisi musically holds fast to her independent roots, keeping the pulse of her music's organic, live instrumentation throbbing. Lost and Found just happens to be a whole lot more fun and varied than Ledisi's straight-ahead jazz project , Feeling Orange, But Sometimes Blue (the title track withstanding) or the earnest debut Soulsinger. A liberated exhale from any self-doubt or self-consciousness, Lost and Found approaches reggae, jazz, soul, gospel but mostly just good old-fashioned danceable R&B with results that aren't so much impressive as they are just immensely enjoyable. Pull out your mid-70's Rufus and early 80's Maze and you'll know exactly what I mean.

Ledisi has always been a fearless singer with a total command of her instrument. However, on Soulsinger, the music took a more complementary approach to the singer's gymnastics, but not anymore. With Rex Rideout (Maysa), Mano Hanes (Gerald Albright), Jamey Jaz (Rashaan Patterson), Lorenzo Johnson and longtime compatriot, Sundra Manning, taking turns at the production helm, music and background vocals go toe-to-toe with Ledisi, who is so effortless as to not break a sweat on these original tunes. There is a joyous musical freedom to Lost and Found, making this album my favorite of Ledisi'ts three. The jazz break of the inspirational "Today," the in-the-pocket groove of "Alright," the guitar-driven funk of "Upside Down"; again and again the music shows up to battle it out as equals with Ledisi's fine instrument. Highly melodic jams like "Get To Know You" and "Best Friend" are infectious beyond any medicinal treatment, if there's a cure... Percussions lead the way on several cuts to delicious effect, especially on the seductive "Joy." After listening to "I Tried," one wonders if the rhythm section has been injected with a triple short shot espresso, they are so awake and present for this material.

The arrangers on Lost and Found should be especially commended. This project is Ledisi's most accessible and R&B in nature, but I never feel like her vocals are reined in even on the occasional formula tune. On a pure radio tune like "Someday," an inspirational song that could have easily been right out of the Faith Evans or Mary J. Blige playbook, Ledisi still successfully pushes against the genre's boundaries. On Lost and Found, arrangements that could constrain a lesser talent deceptively manage to be open and flexible enough for Ledisi's improvisational style and for the many independent flourishes by the project's outstanding musicians.

The slow jams on display on Lost and Found are of the spacious variety upon which Minnie Ripperton and Angela Bofill built careers. The title track's pleading piano ballad, with its haunting strings and mournful violins, is the album standout. Another pure gold gem is the sumptuous, much too short "We Are One," a soothing duet with Rahsaan Patterson that smartly avoids the anticipated closing powerhouse holler fest, maintaining the song's fidelity.

Ledisi may have left fans searching over the last few years, catching that rare Ledisi sighting on obscure jazz and tribute albums here and there. Thankfully, the search is over and Lost and Found proves a treasure worth discovering.  Highly recommended.

-L. Michael Gipson

 
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