Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

January/February 2012: Robert Glasper

Gretchen Parlato

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Jazz always reflects the spirit of the time. Back in the ragtime period, jazz was volatile—it was sexy, exotic, extroverted. In the early 60s with the Beatles revolution, jazz absorbed those ideas and offered jazz-rock fusion.

Right now we’re in the information era. Every jazz musician has access to boatloads of information, and it’s readily available in ways that were unimaginable even a couple of decades ago. In our time, virtuosity is almost a matter of proverb. What is less common is musicality.

Which brings me to Gretchen Parlato. When you hear Gretchen sing, she’s not selling you a whole lot of extraordinary technique. Her sound is sheer—airy and ephemeral. She’s sensual without being heavy.

Gretchen grabbed attention in 2004 when she won the Thelonious Monk Competition. Now she has three recordings, and the praise of critics and audiences around the world. Get ahold of her most recent recording, The Lost and Found, and you’ll see what everybody is talking about.

She’s just so musical. I think of her as an answer to the information age—she’s always surrounding herself with cutting edge technicians, and when they interact with her, they change to expressive musicians. She always picks the right stuff, and turns what could be background singing into foreground singing.

When Gretchen sings, you can’t not listen—she’s like a siren!

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