Sunday, April 17, 2011

Review of Gretchen Parlato's " Lost and Found"

 The Lost And Found

Gretchen Parlato’s "The Lost and Found"
Oblique Sound OSD-CD-113
Recorded at Sear Sound, NYC, August 19-21, 2010

TriptychI have been intrigued by Gretchen Parlato ever since I first heard her hauntingly, beautiful voice used as an instrument on Justin Vasquez’s fine debut album “Triptych” back in 2008. Her precise voicing seamlessly tracked the other instruments with impeccable timing and pitch perfect tone.

I was impressed. She evoked comparisons to Flora Purim from her Return to Forever days or the impressive vocals of Ursula Dudziak, from her days with her then husband fusion violist Michal Urbaniak.  I had the opportunity to see Parlato as a headliner when she came to the Firehouse 12 in New Haven, CT last year in support of her fine release 
In A Dream“ In A Dream”. She continued to impress with her intimate, breathy delivery that draws you in like pillow talk from a coy lover. While her whisper-like technique is unusual, setting her apart from other more forceful singers, I feared that over time this approach might lose its appeal or worse be labeled an affectation.

Now comes her latest release “ The Lost and Found" and Ms. Parlato dispels all questions that she may be a one trick pony. She affirms her truly unique musical vision and further validates her status as a genuine breakthrough talent.

Her music is vital and contemporary.  Whether she is singing a pop song like Mick Hucknall’s “Holding Back the Years”, complete with co-producer 
Robert Glasper’s injection of a hip hop influence in the beat, or she is tackling an eerie rendition of Wayne Shorters “Ju Ju”, Ms. Parlato brings her own subtle sense of musicality, exquisite timing and unerring pitch to the proceedings.

Ms. Parlato has assembled an extremely sympathetic group of musicians for this date raising the level of the entire proceedings, achieving a quantum leap in her musical progress.

Taylor Eigsti on piano is a delight throughout. His accompaniments are supportive and enlightening, helping Ms Parlato reach spectacular results. Listen to Eigsti’s elegant cascades on Ms. Parlato’s “Winter Wind”.

Her long time collaborator, Kendrick Scott, on drums is an essential element to the flawless execution of several songs. Mr. Scott lends an unerring sense of time and subtle syncopations in just the right places.  Eigsti’s silky smoothness on Fender Rhodes is very effective as he compliments Parlato’s vocal on “How We Love” to dreamy perfection.

Ms. Parlato vocal collaboration with guitarist Alan Hampton on his “Still” is airy and sensitive and an interesting departure from most of the other music on the album. .

On the achingly bittersweet 
“Better Than” Ms. Parlato allows her voice to whisper over Eigsti’s piano and Scott’s effective behind the beat snare.

“Circling “ is perhaps Ms. Parlato’s most compelling composition on the album; its pulsating circular beat played brilliantly by bassist Derrick Hodge. Eigsti dances on his Fender Rhodes as Ms. Parlato mesmerizes with  her airy vocalese that is more like soft humming than scatting.

Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire’s haunting “Henya” is a beautifully executed example of the controlled subtlety of Ms. Parlato’s voice. Hodges’ bass is subtly probing as Ms. Parlatto’s creates an accompanying chorus of wordless sounds in the background. 

“All That I Can Say” is a retooling of the Mary J. Blige dance friendly shuffle, that is sure to please the less jazz oriented listeners. Parlato’s version has its own charm.

The Bill Evans/ Miles Davis classic “Blue and Green” is given an uncomfortable beat that for me relegates the song to just another tune of the same name, instead of retaining the masterpiece qualities of the song as it was originally created. Some things are better left alone.

On Dayna Stephen’s 
“ Lost and Found” the wispy Ms. Parlato gives a most sensitive performance as Mr. Stephens plays tenor sparsely behind her. Mr. Scott and Mr. Hodge are beautifully restrained as Mr. Stephen’s deftly choose a modicum of notes .

 Mr. Eigsti’s composition “Without a Sound” starts with a chime-like repeating line, presumably with Mr. Eigsti on a decidedly hollow sounding Fender Rhodes, as Mr. Hodge delicately plays guitar-like sounds on his upright bass and Mr. Scott adds percussive accents from his arsenal. Ms. Parlato’s voice is appropriately hushed creating a surreal dirge-like atmosphere.

Ms. Parlato will be returning to the Firehouse 12 in early June.

Musicians: Gretchen Parlato (vocals);Taylor Eigsti (piano and keyboards); Derrick Hodge (acoustic bass); Kendrick Scott (drums); Dayna Stephens (tenor saxophone) Alan Hampton (guitar and vocals); Robert Glasper ( co-producer and Fender Rhodes on track 10).

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