LOWER EAST SIDE, NY—Elizabeth Ziman grew up in Greenwich Village, the daughter of an actor who had roles on the Broadway stage and on television’s Mork And Mindy and All In The Family. As a youth, Elizabeth trained as a classical pianist. Later, she received a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she studied classical composition. While there, she was awarded the 2001 ASCAP Leiber and Stoller scholarship for her song “Like Water Is To Sand.” She moved to Brooklyn in 2005, and as Elizabeth & The Catapult, performed in local clubs on the strength of two well-received albums. Upon being dropped by her record company, however, Ziman began teaching herself to play guitar and wound up busking her songs in subway stations for a year and a half. She and her band have since returned to performing in Northeast music clubs and on Jan. 21, released a third album, Like It Never Happened.
Friends and fans alike braved a blizzard and turned out to the Mercury Lounge for Elizabeth & The Catapult’s CD release celebration. The band started with “Thank You For Nothing” from the second album, the song that actress Anne Hathaway used to inspire her for her main scene in Les Miserables. Ziman’s vocals were immediately arresting; for most of the set, she started her songs in a soft, almost conversational voice that built up and soared into a sultry, belting powerhouse. Much of the set was dedicated to introducing songs from the new album, including the tongue-in-cheek “Happy Pop,” Ziman’s response to the record company who terminated her contract for not producing radio hits.
The set danced between singer-songwriter, pop singer and cabaret genres, but what was most compelling was Ziman’s deliberate effort to often avoid the plain and add somewhat troublesome arrangements. There was not always a catchy chorus, and when there was, it was not always where one would expect it, and chord and meter progressions sometimes followed Ziman’s jazzy vocals to adventurous structures. After performing perhaps her best-known song from her early days, “Taller Children,” the band ended the set at the opposite end of the musical spectrum with a cover of Harry Nilsson’s Caribbean-flavored “Coconut,” which had no chord changes at all. Elizabeth & The Catapult may get noticed for pop-flavored songs, but a closer listen will lead to more intriguing music.
Elizabeth & The Catapult will be performing at the Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 3, every Monday in February. Visit Elizabeth & The Catapult at www.elizabethandthecatapult.com.