Lili Añel (pronounced Ahn-Yell) considers music a calling. This six-foot tall singer-songwriter grew up in New York City, where she discovered her passion for music. As a child Añel remembers, singing along to her mother’s Cuban, jazz and pop standard albums. It was also her mother who supported Lili’s desire to join the church choir. However it was her grandfather’s recognition of how much joy singing brought to her being, which served to set her feet firmly on the path of a career in music. “My grandfather was very influential and instrumental,” says Lili. “When I sang in the church choir, he would sneak in to the Mass without telling me. I would ask him later, after letting him know that I saw him in the back, why he came to church at all and then left before it was over. His response was: “To hear you sing. I can hear your voice above the others.”
Defying categorization she calls her music a hybrid of “jazz/folk/soul/pop” combined with a powerfully unique vocal style bringing her to the forefront. Lili continues to win over audiences with her vocal stylings, guitar playing and songs, that while often recalling her many influences (Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Janis Ian, Joan Armatrading) prove her own unique style. She has supported Cassandra Wilson, Madeleine Peyroux, B.B. King, The Holmes Brothers, Boz Scaggs, Raul Midon, Alejandro Escovedo, Robert Cray to name a few. Palmetto Records released her first CD “Laughed Last”, following with “Hi-Octane Coffee” (2002), “Dream Again” (2007) and “Every Second In Between” (2009) all self-released. In 2007, JazzTimes Magazine said of Lili “…her songs are consistently excellent…” and proclaimed of her 2009 release “…a cd to blow your mind at first listen…”. Every Second In Between (produced by Glenn Barratt) also made the All About Jazz 2009 Year End Writers Choice for the “10 Best New Jazz Releases” list, along with winning 3 NY Music Awards 2010, Best Singer-Songwriter, Best Jazz Album and Best Female Jazz Vocalist. Lili is also part of Cassandra Wilson’s Ojah Media Group, an independent, privately owned music and concert production company. Her 2013 release “I Can See Bliss From Here” proved she continued to win the approval of her growing fan base as well as the press. She held the #1 spot on the Jazz Hot 11 on WRTI 3 weeks in a row, holding the #10 spot on the year-end 2014 Jazz Countdown. “Bliss” charted nationally on the JazzWeek playlist. Co-produced with fellow bandmate Dale Melton, “Bliss” musically drew from Latin, Jazz, Folk, Blues and Pop, as much a hybrid as Lili herself, a New York-born Cuban-African. “Bliss” succeeded in Añel telling her own story and standing in her truth.
Continuing her work with fellow musician and co-producer Dale Melton, on her 2017 release “Another Place, Another Time, Lili returns with an EP of 6 songs, 4 penned by Añel and 2 covers. One cover, “Traffic Jam In A One Horse Town” was written by her friend Philadelphia guitarist Jef Lee Johnson who passed in 2013. “I decided when Jef left us that I would always include one of his songs on my records. I know he felt he wasn’t heard while he was still here. His music is so amazing and has had such an effect on me, I want to share it with the world. My hope is that people will seek his music out after hearing my renditions.” The second cover, “It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine” which Lili first heard on a Nina Simone recording, is a gospel hymn about deliverance, written by Blind Willie Johnson. Anel’s take includes a bridge she added which includes the line “…if I sing my heart is rejoicing…” putting a positive spin on the mostly fundamental lyric, along with her uplifting vocal delivery. This collection of songs sound like scenes out of a film or collection of short stories. Extremely visual and descriptive, embodying tales of love, both ill-fated and light hearted, cherishing the love of a departed friend, self-affirmation and the difference in perception from what appears to what is.
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Jaijai, what a wonderful mission you've undertaken to create such a place for artistic minds to meet and share their hearts. A place to renew faded determinations, and revive lessened momentums. A place to display our wares and reconfirm to one another that we actually are on the right track.
I commend you, Jaijai, for caring so much that you created this castle of the heart for all of us. I want to share my praise for all of the new friends as well as old friends that I've met and will meet here in our castle. Here we can garnish the where-with-all, the strength, the conviction, and the selflessness through our symbiosis, to share our gift to the world with an unbiased agenda.
My mentor, Daisaku Ikeda says of art: "A beautiful flower delights and refreshes the hearts of all people equally, no matter what soil it grows in. That is the power of beauty. The same is true of great art. It is this spirit that the German poet Heinrich Heine sang of when he wrote that once the peapod bursts open, the sugar peas inside are for everyone to enjoy."
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