Lisa Engelken

Lisa Engelken

 San Francisco, California, USA

Lisa Engelken is a fearless performing artist, who breathes new life into jazz standards Brazilian tunes, and boldly adapts contemporary works by Billy Idol and the Cars into the jazz idiom.

Lisa's latest release "Caravan" was voted "Best of 2010" by the Jazz Journalists Association, and features "From the Earth," an exciting new lyric version of Freddie Hubbard's "Red Clay."


LISA ENGELKEN is a fearless singer and tonic performing artist.

With horn-like rhythmic scatting and impeccable tonal clarity, Lisa’s “Mata Hari vocals” (Village Voice) put the chill back into jazz vocals.

Lisa, now based in the Bay Area, hails from the Kansas plains: part freight train, part tumbleweed, Engelken alternately locomotes and floats through tunes.

Engelken’s technical prowess and unique arranging style are attributed to a varied musical training and performance experience. Classically trained, she wields an acrobatic three-octave range and spices her tunes with Portuguese, French, Spanish, German and Italian (which she speaks fluently).

Theatrically trained, Lisa electrifies audiences with an intensity and focus, immediacy and passion that have garnered her comparisons to Evel Kneivel, Janis Joplin and even a roaring Harley Davidson.

"She is an utter original. Blessed with a superlative
power, control and range, Engelken can, as mood
requires, be as soft as dew or as intense as a sleet
storm; her interpretive instincts are astounding.
In short, Engelken defines the ‘extra’ in extraordinary."

--Christopher Loudon, Jazz Times

In 2010, the San Francisco vocalist and bandleader bounded upon the national jazz scene with Caravan. Since its release, Caravan continues to garner wide critical acclaim, named to the Jazz Journalist Association's "Best of 2010" List of New Releases. Momentum builds as Caravan concerts continue to sell out houses coast-to-coast, and enjoy national airplay that includes Sirius Jazz Channel.

Engelken self-produced & arranged Caravan, 10 songs that breathe new life into jazz standards & Brazilian tunes (by Ellington, Porter, Carmichael, Baden Powel), & boldly transform contemporary works “White Wedding” (Billy Idol) and “Trouble Child” (Joni Mitchell) into the jazz idiom.

Caravan features “From the Earth,” a new lyric version of Freddie Hubbard’s jazz-funk classic Red Clay and marks the 40th anniversary of his landmark recording. Lisa is grateful to have received Mr. Hubbard’s personal review and blessing to record her version before he passed away in December 2008.

Engelken describes Caravan as “10 snapshots of Love: each captured in a unique phase of movement through that journey.” The album demonstrates Lisa’s uncanny ability to convey a song's story and subtext not only through lyric, but through choices in harmony, arrangement and vocal technique specific to each song.

Recent appearances include the 2010 Fillmore Jazz Festival, the SF JAZZ SummerFest Concert Series and San Jose Jazz Festival. Lisa has been awarded the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal as Yitzhak in the rock musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" (Victoria Theatre, SF). She has appeared at South by Southwest (SXSW), North by Northeast (NXNE), and the New York New Music Festival and has shared the stage with such varied artists as Tom Waits, T-Bone Burnett, Yo La Tengo, Low, Greg Brown, John Cameron Mitchell and Steven Trask.

Lisa arrived in San Francisco in 1999, already a seasoned performer from the East Coast: notorious frontwoman and songwriter for jazz-rock sextet the zimmermans (Washington, DC, WAMMIE Award for Best Female Vocalist); sultry diva for jazz-lounge quintet Black Olive (recording: Cosmopolitan); and raucous lead singer for theatrical pop-rock band the Sugar La Las (Birmingham, AL). Lisa is also a recipient of the Mova International Songwriting Award (Jazz Category).

Lisa is currently writing and arranging material for her project “Anima Explorations” with plans to record the new album in Fall 2011.

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