Jazz singer Gretchen Parlato: Her music is pacific, like the ocean
Gretchen Parlato, among the very best of a rising generation of jazz singers, appears at Seattle's Triple Door Sept. 23.
Special to The Seattle Times
Hear Gretchen Parlato: www.myspace.com/gretchenparlato.
Gretchen Parlato7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Triple Door, 216 Union St., Seattle; $15/$18 (206-838-4333 or www.tripledoor.com).
The title of Gretchen Parlato's new album "In a Dream" (Obliqsound) aptly captures the sustained mood of ethereal introspection that she evokes from the first track to the last.
Possessing an enticingly crystalline voice and a ravishing concept deeply informed by samba ballads and bossa nova, Parlato is among the very best of a rising generation of jazz singers, an artist who has taken her own sweet time forging a highly personal sound unlike that of any of her peers.
"For me, the best way to be as an artist is to be completely yourself, letting that vulnerability come through," said Parlato, who makes her Seattle debut as a bandleader at the Triple Door on Wednesday, with pianist Taylor Eigsti, bassist Alan Hampton and drummer Kendrick Scott (heard recently at Jazz Alley with Terence Blanchard).
"The meditative, calm sound is a reflection of my personality," Parlato says. "I've got a silly and a crazy side, but it makes sense the music would come across that way. I do yoga every day and try to keep a sense of peace and calm in my life. I don't have a lot of frantic energy."
You could say that Parlato's music is pacific like the ocean, offering a deceptively cool appearance while roiling with creative energy just below the shimmering surface. Her repertoire is full of unexpected gems, from translucent arrangements of Stevie Wonder's "I Can't Help It" and Björk's "Come To Me" to expertly crafted interpretations of the Wayne Shorter compositions "Juju" and "Footprints," featuring her original lyrics.
Shorter is one of Parlato's biggest supporters. The legendary saxophonist was on the panel with Herbie Hancock and Terence Blanchard when she won a 2001 audition to become the first vocalist admitted to the Thelonious Monk Institute's prestigious two-year master's program.
In 2004, the Los Angeles-raised singer won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition and used the $20,000 award to record her first album, an impressive, self-named session featuring pianist Aaron Parks, who grew up in Seattle, and Beninese guitarist Lionel Loueke (a close collaborator since their days at the Monk Institute).
While Parks and Loueke are also essential "In a Dream" contributors, Parlato is touring the West Coast with Grammy-nominated pianist Eigsti, a 24-year-old Bay Area counterpart to Parks who's been performing and recording with veteran improvisers for more than a decade.
Dividing his time between Fender Rhodes and traditional piano, he's ideally equipped to navigate the gossamer textures woven around Parlato's lithe, breathy vocals, whether she's singing wordless lines, English or Portuguese.
"I like to think of it as you would see a painting, something cohesive and complete," Parlato said. "I want there to be a sense of continuity in the music, with all the elements combined in a cohesive way."
Andrew Gilbert: firstname.lastname@example.org
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