Monday, 5 October 2009
In A Dream is jazz songstress Gretchen Parlato's debut release on the ObliqSound label. This incredible album strikes a balance between original tracks and wonderful covers of work by artists such as Stevie Wonder, Duke Ellington, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. But the real testament to the strength of this album is how original the material sounds - the covers have been flipped in a really fresh way, and Gretchen consistently demonstrates what a talented and versatile singer she is.
01. I Can't Help It
02. Within Me
04. In A Dream
06. Turning Into Blue
09. On The Other Side
The very first track, I Can't Help It, grabbed me by the ears and whisked me away in an instant. Originally a Stevie Wonder track, but perhaps best known for its incarnation at the hands of a certain Michael Jackson, Gretchen put a fantastic contemporary bossa nova tilt on it and it is simply beautiful! Gracefully flowing over the understated sounds, Gretchen's ethereal vocals truly do the track much justice.
"In A Dream" (mp3)
from "In A Dream"
Buy at Rhapsody
Buy at Napster
Stream from Rhapsody
The album was created with the help of a fine quartet of musicians; Lionel Loueke on guitar, Aaron Parks on piano and Fender Rhodes, Derrick Hodge on acoustic and electric bass, and drummer Kendrick Scott. They combine seamlessly to produce ten tracks of very diverse vocal jazz, oozing with classic influences, yet delivered in a fresh and modern manner. Much in the way Esbjorn Svensson and his trio brought piano trios into the lives of the modern listener, Gretchen Parlato brings her vocal jazz stylings to the same audience. It's rich and deep enough to appease the hardcore, whilst accessible enough to appeal to non-jazz fans. Rather than conclude that it be the "best of both worlds", I would rather suggest it is more worthy to simply be considered a fantastic jazz album which can be appreciated by all music fans.
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Gently flowing from bossa to lounge, uptempo to hypnotic and back again, In A Dream is a collective of sounds and styles, too exquisite to be labeled a compilation or showcase, but most definitely a wonderful listening experience which will leave you coming back over and over, for yet another listen. But it's not just me who has been left impressed, oh no, Herbie Hancock has said that Parlato has a "deep, almost magical connection to the music," and Wayne Shorter said "in an inconspicuous way, Gretchen plays the same instrument as Frank Sinatra." In her own words, Gretchen says, "I sing from my heart and soul and hope that people feel that. I just want them to feel something. That could be joy or sadness, as long as it moves them in some way."
This album is embarrassingly full of talented contributions and inspirations, with even the fantastic pianist Robert Glasper making his mark by co-writing the title track, In A Dream, a hushed rhythmic track with Gretchen Parlato herself. Other highlights, for me personally, are the spine-tingling Within Me, the delicate (yet powerful) Butterly, and the last track on the album, Weak, which believe it or not is actually an SWV (Sisters With Voices) cover!
Ultimately, if you were to ask me to point you in the direction of a practically flawless vocalist, I'd point you in the direction of Gretchen Parlato.
Upcoming European Live Dates:
Nov 6/7: Sunset Jazz Club, Paris, France
Nov 9-14: Spain tour (Madrid, Palencia, Ponferrada, Leon, Zamora, Valladolid)
Nov 15: London Jazz Festival