Gretchen Parlato at WPAS at the 6th and I Synagogue by Francine Schwartz

Gretchen Parlatowinner of the 2004 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, has toured internationally with her own band and as a guest of many world-renowned artists; notable performances include La Villette in Paris with Hollywood Bowl, and the Hollywood Bowl with Oscar Castro-Neves, Gal Costa, Ivan Lins, and Dianne Reeves. Last night she returned to Washington DC where she played a sold-out concert at the 6th and I Synagogue.

Gretchen Parlato. Photo by Jati Lindsay.
Gretchen Parlato. Photo by Jati Lindsay.

Parlato’s style is atmospheric and understated. She is proficient at scat, and provides her own clapping accompaniment, as well as incorporating African percussive tools and even whistling. Her singing voice is very flexible and expressive. Songs often start as a murmur, and build into a moaning, trance-like sound, increasing in intensity and volume. The lyrics are usually philosophical and inspirational. She has composed many of her own songs, including “If It Was,” “After All,” “Within Me,” “Holding Back,” “Hesitation,”  “How We Love,” “Better Than,” and “Circling.” And she has reworked other artists’ songs, such as saxophonist Wayne Shorter’s “Juju” and music by Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock.,

Parlato was very inventive with the Brazilian standard “Alo, Alo.”  Parlato’s interest in Yoga and meditation was frequently reflected in lyrics in which a particular word was repeated, as a mantra,  focusing attention on the rhythm or inflection rather than the denotation or word meaning. Because of this practice, the alternation with other instruments provided a welcome change. The guitar work on “Hesitation” and “If it Was” provided a chance for Alan Hampton to show increasing focus on his vocal contributions to the ensemble.

On this occasion Parlato was teamed with Taylor Eigsils on piano and keyboard, Alan Hampton on Bass, guitar and vocals, and Justin Brown, on drums. Parlato plays with a rotating caste of collaborators, as do her partners.

Parlato plays with a rotating cast of collaborators, as do her partners. For example, Eigsti has had the opportunity to play with artists including  Al Jarreau, Esperanza Spalding, Ambrose Akinmusire, Frederica Von Stade, Joshua Redman, Kitty Margolis, and Madeline Eastman.

Alan Hampton is another alumni of the Thelonius Monk School of Music and has been evolving as a songwriter as well as as an instrumentalist and sideman.  He co-wrote “Change Your Mind” with Ms. Parlato.

Justin Brown is a talented young drummer who is a graduate of the Dave Brubeck School and Julliard. His mastery of complex rhythms added even more sophistication and depth to Ms. Parlato’s pared-down style.

This was a wonderful, and intimate evening with a passionate artist and some great musicians.

Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, with one intermission.

Gretchen Parlato appeared for one night only at WPAS at the 6th and I Synagogue – 600 I Street NW, in Washington, DC. For future events, check their calendar. For future WPAS events, check their calendar.

Gretchen Parlato’s website.


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