Toronto-based pop and jazz vocalist Lori Cullen has a pure and uniquely beautiful voice that recalls the likes of Joni Mitchell and Jane Siberry. Lori has been acclaimed by jazz great Kurt Elling as one of his favourite new singers. It’s her singing that always draws attention, and partly for the things that it doesn’t have. No vibrato, no trendy affectations, no unnecessary melodic ornamentation. Just a pure and uniquely beautiful voice. Fittingly, her latest album, titled Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs (2016, True North), is a collaboration with Ron Sexsmith, who penned the lyrics, and Lori’s husband singer-songwriter Kurt Swinghammer, who wrote the music and handled the arrangements. The 12-song recording has been described as a “fresh expression of jazz-infused chamber-pop,” though it draws inspiration from Burt Bacharach, Antonio Carlos Jobim and others. “To have two of my favourite people who also happen to be two of my favourite songwriters write an album of material for ME to sing is beyond exciting,” beamed Cullen. Her 2006 release Calling For Rain was a hybrid of jazz and pop which became her lasting artistic identity. Largely a collection of carefully curated covers, it was nominated for a Best Vocal Jazz JUNO. One of her original tunes on the album won the Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award from the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals. 2011’s That Certain Chartreuse presented an eclectic selection of covers by artists as diverse as Gordon Lightfoot and King Crimson, all creatively arranged by herself and her band of stellar Toronto musicians.
The late Chris Dedrick, revered leader of 60’s chamber pop faves The Free Design, heard Lori on the radio and came to her next gig with an open invite to collaborate. His signature ornate brass and vocal arrangements adorn Lori’s album Buttercup Bugle. It’s release in 2007 was celebrated with a live show featuring a 12-piece band and broadcast nationally on CBC Radio. Around this time Polaris Prize winner and Arcade Fire member Owen Pallet asked Lori to contribute her distinctive vocals to his second Final Fantasy album.