Change The World, Create Something!
The contemporary jazz scene has shed light on a growing number of emerging jazz musicians. However, it’s not often we are treated to a jazz vocalist who is able to imbue her voice-as-instrument with effortless understated style. We are talking about none other than fast-rising New-York based Californian singing star Gretchen Parlato, an alumnus of the Thelonious Monk Institute. We caught up with Parlato after her performance at the Kings Place during the London Jazz Festival 2011. She spoke to us about her musical upbringing, the creative process on her latest album 'The Lost & Found', working with Robert Glasper and gave us an insight into her vivaciously witty double-life Helen McKenzie.
The SHAE London team were introduced to Gretchen Parlato’s music some time ago when Dwele mentioned to us that he had constantly listened to Parlato’s version of the classic R&B song ‘Weak’ by SWV. After hearing her perform this song live, I clearly know why! ‘Weak’ was one of the many highlights from Parlato’s concert to conclude the night. The room was enraptured by her organic improvisation and melodious voice; she transformed an R&B classic into a jazz phenomenon.
Gretchen Parlato is a standout performer who graceful takes over the stage every chance she gets – Jazz can indeed look as good as it sounds. For her concert at the King’s Place, she performed pieces from her latest album ‘The Lost and Found’ and re-visited songs from past albums, including works by Duke Ellington, Stevie Wonder and Wayne Shorter and her gossamer light cover of Herbie Hancock's Butterfly. Parlato is adept at fussing Soul, R&B and African percussion into her mesmerising sound, hearing her perform Simply Red’s classic ‘Holding Back the Years’ and ‘Better than’ from her latest album, influenced from ‘Nothing Even Matters’ by D'Angelo and Lauryn Hill was both exhilarating and refreshingly.
In addition, the relationship between the quartet which included double bassist Alan Hampton, pianist Taylor Eigsti and drummer Kendrick Scott created a whole new experience from the album which was unpredictable and inventive – the delivery was consummate. By the end of the night, the whole audience were left enthralled and high-spirited. Gretchen Parlato definitely holds her own in the contemporary jazz scene, as mentioned by Wayne Shorter ‘She’s true blue.’
Follow Gretchen Parlato on Twitter: @gretchenparlato
And check out Parlato's website for the latest information: www.gretchenparlato.com
Words/Interview: Jummy Bankè
Video Credits: SHAE London