Jaguar Wright, one of the newest talents to emerge from the forward-looking Philadelphia soul and hip-hop scene, brings brassy sass to modern R & B. Like Jill Scott and India.Arie, she owes her breakthrough in part to the Roots' "Black Lily" concerts, a series meant to spotlight new female soul acts. And her debut album, Denials Delusions and Decisions (MCA), benefits from production work by a coterie of new soul's hottest hands--including James Poyser (Erykah Badu's Mama's Gun), Scott Storch (the Roots), and Philly house bigwig Vikter Duplaix. Wright eschews the delicate, jazzy cooing of singers like Badu, Scott, and N'Dambi for something decidedly more brash; her powerful voice is supple and precise, and she never loses control, even when she climbs to her peak volume or lets loose with syllable-crammed freestyling. Unfortunately some of the tunes' chord progressions are so simple they don't give her much to work with, leaving her sounding like she's just doing fancy tricks instead of trying to go anywhere. Wright started out as a rapper before gravitating to more lucrative session work as a singer, and her early braggadocio has stuck with her in a way--her lyrics consistently address questions of strength and self-possession. On "Self Love" she rips shit up with a demonic vocal ad-lib, excoriating people who accept mediocrity from themselves; in "Same Shit Different Day Pt. 1" she gets fed up with a go-nowhere relationship. Her hip-hop past also colors her phrasing: when she cuts up her deep-soul wail with stuttering off-the-beat accents, she flows like a seasoned MC. Wednesday, July 24, 7 PM, Skyline Stage, Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand; 312-595-7437 or 312-559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Barron Claiborne.