LOCAL LIVE! In Denver, About Denver, Musically Denver!!!!
Gretchen Parlato - June 23, 2011, First Set, Dazzle, Denver.
Is it survival of the fittest or survival of the hippest? Since we're talking about a new musical life form taking root on the jazz landscape, it's probably a bit of both. In Gretchen Parlato's case, she and her music are both plenty hip and plenty fit. Thus, her chances are good in establishing something new under the jazz sun. Since its earliest days, jazz has been constantly evolving and it's a privilege to see it happening right before your eyes. And that's a pretty good reason to see a Gretchen Parlato concert.
Gretchen Parlato's star is on the rise. Now touring in support of her recently released third album The Lost and Found, she's garnering attention throughout the jazz world. In late June, it was Denver's turn to hear what she's all about during her two night stand at Dazzle. She brought the key ingredients from her album with her, namely Taylor Eigsti on piano and keyboards and Alan Hampton on bass, guitar and vocals. They were joined by Mark Guiliana on drums for some genre-bending performances in a style not quite like anyone else's.
Parlato's delicate, breathy mezzo-soprano seems right at home with her diminutive frame and her eccentric haircut (long in front, short everywhere else (a reverse mullet?)). She often seems to be making a fervent plea as much as simply singing, with her eyes closed and impassioned expressions. But many singers are passionate, expressive, emotive. What sets Parlato apart from many other vocalists on the jazz scene is her combination of musical styles. Her music doesn't quite swing (at least most of the time), it's not quite pop, it's not quite rock, it seems to be a little bit of all that in a refreshing new mixture.
Throughout their set at Dazzle last week, she and the band effectively built climaxes followed by quieter, more introspective and intimate sections. Pianist Eigsti was particularly adept at alternating between melodic passages and others that bordered on frantic. Sometimes he accomplished both at the same time. Hampton and Guilana were equally sympathetic coconspirators in the enterprise. Hampton put on some harmony vocals several times, and on his own composition, "Still," switched to acoustic guitar, taking yet another step away from a straight ahead jazz sound.
Her choice of material reflects the clash of styles, cultures and eras heard in the music itself. "Holding Back the Years" was a hit for the British rock band Simply Red in the mid 80s. "Butterfly" is a Herbie Hancock composition from his electro-funk period in the mid-70s, but qualifies more as a ballad compared to his other output of the time. The music to "The Lost and Found" was composed by Dayna Stephens with lyrics by Parlato. In other words, she draws from many different sources. To this diverse program she brings her own approach which is sometimes intimate, sometime percussive, always compelling. Her music pushes jazz's boundaries, which, of course, is what evolution is all about.
When Your Dark Eyes Meet Mine
Holding Back the Years
The Lost and Found
How We Love
Gretchen Parlato, vocals, percussion
Taylor Eigsti, piano
Alan Hampton, bass, guitar, vocals
Mark Guiliana - drums