Gretchen Parlato has redefined how a generation views vocal jazz.
Brent Black / www.bop-n-jazz.com
Reviewing Gretchen Parlato is a bit presumptuous, consider this a public service announcement as her latest effort will street on October 8, 2013. A live CD and DVD packages captures the magic and intimacy of what transpired at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City over two nights. To attempt a critique using a somewhat antiquated phrase as vocal jazz as the litmus test of her work seems painfully lacking when considering her talent. Parlato is not a jazz singer but a vocal artist that paints vivid imagery with a pristine voice that can play catch and release with a single note as well as any of her contemporaries.
The band is actually made up of two different ensemble casts over this engagement. The first group consists of Taylor Eigsti, Alan Hampton and Mark Guiliana while the second cast of musical co-conspirators is once again made up of Eigsti along with Burniss Earl Travis II and the fabulous drummer Kendrick Scott. A one word review that would capture the essence of this stellar project would be connectivity. Parlato casts a broad net and cuts a wide if not breathtaking sonic path that is simply the harmonious union of kindred spirits. Musical cohesion or synergy with a vocalist of Parlato's gifts and the accompanying band is stereotypically lacking, the band is merely an afterthought but it is the obvious chemistry that inspires Parlato to pull off a live release worthy of serious acclaim. All the stars were indeed in perfect alignment.
While the nine live tracks on the audio disc are pulled from her three studio releases, these are imaginative transformations of previously released material into previously unimagined lyrical portraits of deceptively subtle nuanced flavor and harmonic development. Four of these nine tracks appear on the DVD which is shot and edited beautifully. This is not Parlato at the top of her game. This is a most organic self portrait of the evolution of perhaps the most gifted vocalist to burst onto the scene in the last twenty five years. A jazz singer, a vocal artist, a lyrical poet all seem to be futile attempts at labeling a talent that truly transcends genre.
A stunning recording. A sublime experience. You never rate genius, you celebrate it.
Tracks: Butterfly; All That I Can Say; Alo Alo; Within Me; Holding Back The Years; JuJu; Weak; On The Other Side; Better Than.