Gretchen Parlato, David Devoe, Julie Hardy: New Singers Showcase at the 55 Bar


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On November 20, a three hour evening of New Singers was held at the 55 Bar in Greenwich Village, NYC, to showcase the talents of Gretchen Parlato, David Devoe and Julie Hardy.

The principal attraction of the event was the opportunity to see Parlato, the winner of this year's prestigious Thelonious Monk Award given earlier in Washington D.C. The 28 year old earned a degree from UCLA in 1998 for Jazz Studies from the Ethnomusicology Department. Her love of jazz and Brazilian music continued and in 2001 she was chosen to be the first vocalist to be accepted into the Monk Institute in Los Angeles. The selecting judges for that occasion were Wayne Shorter, Terence Blanchard and Herbie Hancock. The Monk Award, given several months ago, was the first honor of a jazz vocalist since the late 90s when singer Jane Monheit was cited. Previous recipients also included the late singer Teri Thornton. Gretchen Parlato has relocated to New York since Fall 2003.

Gretchen Parlato performed six songs accompanied by guitarist/vocalist/percussionist Lionel Loueke and was also joined by Gregoire Maret on harmonica for "Skylark" and "Bene's Tune." Loueke was adroitly able to provide not only chording and melody on guitar but also bass lines and percussive effects. With the exception of Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark," the songs were all performed in flawless Portuguese beginning with the bossa " Falsa Bahiana." Jobim's "Ela E Carioca" (She's A Carioca) was slowed down a bit and Djavan's "Fleur de Lis" was a joyeus release. Jobim's popular First Wave Bossa Nova standard "Chega de Saudade" continued in much the same vein with a spirited delivery by the singer. An original from Lionel Loueke, in honor of his wife, "Bene's Tune" permitted the guitarist to display his playing and vocals before being joined by Parlato. Maret's harmonica, as per his appearance on "Skylark," added texture to the tune by way of his soulful delivery. Parlato's poise amd stage presence belied her age and experience level. A visit to her website ( www.gretchenparlato.com ) will provide at least 40 minutes of music that includes all songs performed in this set.

Singer David Devoe has degrees from the New England Conservatory and was a recipient of a Downbeat Student Music Award in 2000. Devoe has studied with Mark Murphy, Fred Hersch and Sheila Jordan and has worked with the late Steve Lacy, Matt Wilson, Mulgrew Miller and Kenny Wheeler. His first album is partially completed and includes Ben Monder, Adam Cruz and Chris Cheek. Devoe's website ( www.daviddevoe.com ) contains more information.

David Devoe presided over a cooking trio consisting of Randy Ingram, fender Rhodes; Matt Clohesy, bass and Jon Wikan, drums. His well balanced set consisted of Cole Porter's "In the Still of the Night," Ira Gershwin's "This Is New," the Kurt Weill/Maxwell Anderson "September Song" and Gershwin's "But Not For Me." Two unusual selections had lyrics that were based upon poetry. "Longing," a Fred Hersch composition utilized the text of a poem by Walt Whitman and "Love Is Not All" featured the words of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Devoe concluded his set with lyrics set to the McCoy Tyner song "Contemplation." These words and the performance of Devoe complemented the angularity of the Tyner composition perfectly. In addition to his pleasant versions of the above standards, Devoe offered a quite unique ability to turn his improvisational opportunities into visual presentations. What would ordinarily be a scat break for a singer, morphed into a full blown vocal saxophone solo that would do Eddie Jefferson or Jon Hendricks proud.

Julie Hardy is a vocalist who is New Hampshire educated and has a Masters Degree in Jazz Composition from the New England Conservatory in 2001. In 2002, she was one of two nationwide vocalists selected for the Jazz Academy Snowmass in Aspen Colorado which is a program directed by bassist Christian McBride. Last year, Hardy placed in the Top Ten, from a field of 200 applicants, in the Jazz Connect Vocal Jazz Competition and the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead held at Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center. She has worked with Fred Hersch, Sheila Jordan and Rebecca Paris and is inspired by the work of vocalists Dominique Eade and Luciana Souza. Her self-produced album Moment's Glance includes musicians Ben Street and Adam Cruz and more information can be obtained from her website ( www.juliehardy.com ).

Julie Hardy is a well regarded jazz vocalist. Performing with the same rhythm section as David Devoe (Randy Ingram, Matt Clohesy, Jon Wikan), Hardy delivered seven tunes that displayed her talents in a jazz setting. The most familiar tunes were the Lennon-McCartney "And I Love Him" with the gender transposed, Ralph Rainger's jazz standard "If I Should Lose You" which proved an effective duet with bassist Matt Clohesy, Carole King's "So Far Away" and a finale of the Cole Porter "It's Alright With Me" which featured an arrangement by the singer and an extended scatting/vocalese performance. An original tune, "No Turning Back" was performed as vocalese and was dedicated to Brazilian singer Luciana Souza. "Iris," the lyrics set to Wayne Shorter's composition from the Miles Davis ESP album and "Flowers" featuring the words of British poet Wendy Cope, offered unusual vocal choices.

In all, the evening represented an opportunity to celebrate the arrival of these young jazz vocalists, all of them are products of college-level jazz studies. Their enthusiasm and diligence in carrying forward this tradition gives a promising picture which gives good indication that the singer and song continue to flourish in the New York Metropolitan Area.

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