A few years after the release of her fourth album with Verve, a gospel-themed set of reinterpretations titled Fellowship, Lizz Wright signed to the Concord label with an eye toward concentrating on original material. The vocalist made a connection with veteran multi-instrumentalist and producer Larry Klein and recorded Freedom & Surrender with a stable backing band that included drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, percussionist Pete Korpela, bassist Dan Lutz, guitarist Dean Parks, and keyboardists Pete Kuzma and Billy Childs. For most listeners, the change of label and mostly new set of supporting musicians will seem transparent. Like Wright's previous albums, Freedom & Surrender is graceful and exacting, yet those qualities come across in a fashion that does not seem deliberate -- remarkable for material that draws from folk, blues, jazz, soul, and gospel and often fuses two or more of those genres. Longtime collaborator Toshi Reagon contributes only two songs, "Freedom" and "Surrender," but they neatly begin and end the album in spirited and assured form. David Batteau and Jesse Harris separately collaborated with Wright and sometimes Klein on the writing of seven selections. In "The New Game," one of the grittier moments featuring a contribution from Batteau, Wright delivers the lines that most applicable to the state of her career: "I remember the way in/I got my new dancin' shoes/This is a new game, no tears/Ain't no shame shiftin' gears." Two guest appearances fit into place with ease. Gregory Porter is a duet partner on "Right Where You Are," a languid ballad written by Wright and Klein with J.D. Souther. A spectral version of Nick Drake's "River Man" -- along with an update of Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody," one of only two covers, and a highlight -- features a soft-hued flügelhorn solo from Till Brönner. It's doubtful that Wright and her creative partners could have more effectively synthesized her past work with her current outlook.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman