KEVIN TREXLERSan Francisco jazz singer Lisa Engelken appears this weekend to perform music from her new recording "Little Warrior."

KEVIN TREXLERSan Francisco jazz singer Lisa Engelken appears this weekend to perform music from her new recording "Little Warrior."

Jazz singer Engelken going beyond 4/4 time

San Francisco jazz singer Lisa Engelken’s new recording, “Little Warrior,” is both a remarkable group project and a display of individual talent and fortitude.

In development as a series of songs called “The Anima Project,” which she debuted in monthly house concerts in 2011, “Little Warrior” is a departure from Engelken’s well-received “Caravan,” a 2010 album she describes as “mainstream with a twist.”

In “Little Warrior,” the subject of two shows in Oakland this weekend, “The material is not standard fare. It’s not what you think of when you think of a jazz vocal album. I’m not singing ‘My Funny Valentine,’” says Engelken, who studied opera in college, where she developed techniques to preserve her three-octave range.

On “Little Warrior,” she shows all sides of her singing self, from the lows in the original tune “Housemate from Hell” to the highs in the title track, also original.

Engelken, who has been singing since she was a youngster in Kansas, the youngest of 13 children, also is a self-taught arranger.

Making “Little Warrior,” she says, “I used my subconscious as my creative guide. I didn’t work from laws of theory except when I got in a bind,” noting that its carefully selected songs — including covers of tunes by Tom Waits, The Cars, Joni Mitchell and a lyric version of Wayne Shorter’s “Undertow” — purposely go beyond “swinging in 4/4 time.”

Although she comes up with complex harmonies, Engelken’s arrangements start with a melody line (the melody is the “crux of a song”). She realizes artists sometimes can alienate audiences, trying to be too impressive or clever.

Yet she’s not about to stifle her own admittedly unique voice, and welcomes listener responses: “I’m all about engaging, rather than saying, ‘This stuff is too deep for you,’” she says.

Pointing out her take on the Abbey Lincoln song “Throw It Away,” she says, “People respond greatly to that song,” sharing intimacies and tears, and the same kind of catharsis she associates with it.

While she gladly accepted listener input in making the album, and conferred with saxophonist David Alt and trumpeter David Scott on some of the arrangements, the project is ultimately her own, and the result of a lot of solitary work: “People think music is just magical, that it happens in the air. Creation takes time,” she says.

Engelken, who hopes to tour next year after radio promotion for “Little Warrior” fully rolls out, is thrilled with early reviews of the CD, with one critic calling it “a pan sensual experience.” Describing her music as tactile and aural — what could be better than that? Engelken asks.

IF YOU GO

Lisa Engelken

Where: Sound Room, 2147 Broadway, Oakland

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $20 to $25

Contact: www.brownpapertickets.comartsLisa EngelkenLittle WarriorPop Music & JazzSound Room

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The City has struggled to conduct outreach in some neighborhoods as it works to expand Slow Streets — such as this section of Page Street in the Lower Haight — to underserved neighborhoods. <ins>(Jordi Molina/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
SFMTA delays vote on Bayview Slow Streets, approves five others in ‘underserved’ areas

SFMTA struggles to conduct outreach in neighborhoods with lower internet access

Stern Grove Festival organizers are planning to bring back the popular summer concert series — The Isley Brothers show in 2019 is pictured — with limited audience capacity. (Ming Vong/S.F. Examiner)
Indoor shows won’t be flooding SF stages soon but Stern Grove might be back in June

While San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that live performances may resume… Continue reading

San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto  (47) started on Opening Day against the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park on April 9, 2021. (Photography by Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner).
Giants welcome fans back with strong performance by Cueto

By Ethan Kassel Special to S.F. Examiner ORACLE PARK — The first… Continue reading

James Harbor appears in court after he was arrested on charges in the July 4th shooting death of 6-year-old Jace Young on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Murder case heads to trial over killing of 6-year-old Jace Young

Hearing reveals new details in ‘horrific’ Fourth of July shooting

BART passengers may see more frequent service by this fall. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
BART service increases possible as soon as September

Proposal would double weekday, daytime trains and extend system operating hours

Most Read