Gretchen Parlato: Live in NYC (2013)
These include her soft, dreamy tone, blessedly accurate pitch, and the phrasing of lines that consistently swing, whatever the tempo. Parlato's organic sense of time also shows in her breathing, particularly on faster tunes like "Butterfly" and "Alo Alo," where her short, sharp intakes create a percussive effect all their own. This underscores the fact that, beyond being a remarkable vocalist, she is a fine instrumentalist as well.
Parlato's choice of bandmates adds to the many pleasures here. Pianist and keyboardist Taylor Eigsti, a Grammy-nominated leader and composer in his own right, provides blazing and sensitive solos throughout; his flawless runs and melodic creativity are distinctive, and far more than displayed by most vocal accompanists. There's also a consistently rich, mutual interplay among Parlato, Eigsti, and each of the superb bassists and drummersAlan Hampton and Burniss Earl Travis ii, and Mark Guiliana and Kendrick Scott, respectively. It's all part of Parlato's vision, where players are prized for their artful ability to re-invent the music, remaining true to its basic form while keeping it always fresh and alive.
Standout tracks include her own powerful "Better Than," the delightful "Alo Alo," where the DVD reveals her percussionist skill (and the source of all that intriguing clacking), and Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly," where the opening riff is catchy enough to linger in mind the rest of the day. Parlato continues to transform a wide range of material, including the American Songbook and pop tunes like Simply Red's "Holding Back the Years"; she seems to select whatever music and story speak to her personally, regardless of genre. The result is a style that's not only delightful to hear, but suggests an active, thoughtful, and original musical intelligence behind it. Given her restless and exploratory spirit, it will be fascinating to see where Parlato goes next.
Track Listing: Butterfly; All That I Can Say; Alo Alo; Within Me; Holding Back The Years; JuJu; Weak; On The Other Side; Better Than.
Personnel: Gretchen Parlato: vocals; Taylor Eigsti: piano and keyboards; Alan Hampton: bass and vocals (1, 3, 4, 5, 6); Burniss Earl Travis II: bass and vocals (2, 7, 8, 9); Mark Guiliana: drums (1, 3, 4, 5, 6); Kendrick Scott: drums (2, 7, 8, 9).
Record Label: ObliqSound