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JOE MONTAGUE speaks with an artist who’s playing across the intersection of jazz and Gospel…

We’ve all heard of talking, even walking, in your sleep. But singing?

“It’s funny how I get melodies in my head while I am sleeping so I keep a little digital recorder at my bedside,” explains American jazz vocalist, Lori Perry.

“When I do hear these melodies I just put them on tape. (The next morning) I will listen to what I have recorded in the middle of the night.” 

NO LONGER RUNNING: Lori Perry says new her album ‘No Longer Run’ features songs she has been “holding in my heart for sometime”.

“I had been doing secular music for a long time and I wanted to go back to my roots,” says Lori Perry. “It brings praise and honor to God who gives me everything.”

It’s an unorthodox way of writing songs, perhaps, but it clearly works. Perry spent many years touring with her three sisters – Carol, Darlene and Sharon – and has performed with such well known artists ranging from Anita Baker, Al Jarreau and Roberta Flack through to George Benson and Seal. Her blend of jazz and R&B tunes have attracted a solid base of appreciative fans with the style and quality of her voice often been compared to the likes of Anita Baker and Patti Labelle. Listening to her most recent CD, I Found It In You, the comparisons are understandable.

I Found It In You marks a return to Perry’s Gospel heritage. 

No Longer Run is a tune that came to me in my living room one day,” Perry explains. “I was tired of just going in circles. I said ‘Lord, I will no longer run from what Your will is for my life’. I got tired of doing it my way. I want to do it His way because His way is best for me.” 

Perry says the music on the album “represents (the songs) that I have been holding in my heart for sometime and that I have wanted to put out”.

“I had been doing secular music for a long time and I wanted to go back to my roots. It brings praise and honor to God who gives me everything. I am so blessed to have Him who gives everything to me. I owe my very life to Him so why not honor Him and give back to Him. It is only a smidgen or a portion of what He gives to me every day.”

Perry adds that she has “always loved jazz”.

“(I) have always wanted to sing the good news of God, so one day in 1987 I decided to name it “Gospel jazz”. (I wanted to) sing about the music that I love. It was born back then but it took almost 20 years to come to fruition.”

The CD I Found It In You is really an appendix to her 2004 release of Wrote This Song

“I enhanced the songs,” Perry explains. “I added Love Lifted Me because that was my grandfather’s favorite song. Psalm 23 (another of the songs on the album) has always been a favorite prayer of mine.”

Perry turned to an old friend, jazz artist George Duke, when creating the album. 

“I have worked with George for about eight years,” she says. “I have learned so much from that man. He is a brilliant wonderful producer, father and husband. I have nothing but respect for him. He has a lot of knowledge about music. He will sit and tell me stories and I tell him, ‘You need to write your memoirs’. It is always a pleasure to work with him because he allows me to be who I am. He always gives me a place to stand out front. 

“I love artists who are not intimidated by the talents of others. (George) enhanced what I have to offer. When I asked George to be a part of the CD, yes couldn’t come out (of his mouth) fast enough. He gave us the studio free of charge. It was just him letting me know that he appreciates me.”

Like most good artisans, Perry works hard at her craft.

“I see the changes and I try to adjust. I am trying to reinvent what I do and not be left behind in an Eighties world. I am adjusting to the business.”

This includes being very involved with the production side of her projects. 

“I am hands-on because nobody knows better than you what you hear inside of your head. I don’t want to hold all the reins…I am not greedy in the sense that, ‘It’s my thing and I am going to do it my way.’ I welcome any idea that (others contribute).”

“I am trying to reinvent what I do and not be left behind in an Eighties world,” says Perry. “I am adjusting to the business.”

After their mother died prematurely, the Perry sisters got an early introduction to music when they went to live with their grandparents in Bakersfield. Their grandfather was the pastor of a church and the Perry girls, along with some cousins, formed the church choir. The choir became the forerunner of Perri. 

Perry reminisces: “I went to a Pat Metheny concert in the Eighties (1985) and was just blown away. (Later) I locked myself in a room and wrote all lyrics to his (music). We went to a studio and put the words on vinyl and sent it to him just to show appreciation for his music. He was floored. He was coming to San Diego and asked us to do a gig with him.” 

A talent scout from MCA Records was in the audience, noticed them and eventually the ladies were offered their first recording contract. Their first album was Celebrate.

In recent years, Perry has collaborated on two of Brian Culbertson’s songs, Going To Miss You and Getting Over You

“I had met Brian through a former manager of mine who died of leukaemia,” she says. “His name was Howard Lowell. Nobody knew he was sick. He was just this loving guy who would try to hook you up with anyone that he thought you should collaborate with. In his dying days, he (Lowell) kept calling Brian and I and saying, ‘You have to meet’. After we (Culbertson and her) met, (Lowell) went into the hospital and died. I went over to Brian’s house and we were both so saddened by Lowell’s death that we wrote Going to Miss You. We toured together and I am looking forward to the opportunity to work with Brian again in the coming years.”

Speaking from her home in Studio City, California, Perry recalled two highlights in her career. One stems from her song No Place To Go recorded on a Perri album. The inspiration for the song came from her conversation with a homeless person on the streets of Los Angeles. The song was a big hit in Detroit and the mayor of the city presented the Perry sisters with the key to the metropolis. The gesture was an acknowledgement that they had elevated awareness of the plight of the homeless. 

Asked how she envisions her career and personal life unfolding in the year ahead, Perry is forthright in her response.

“We have to be faithful and know that He will provide and do everything that He says He will do.”



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