Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

May/June 2012: Ramsey Lewis (Festival Edition)

Gretchen Parlato

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If you’re any fan of jazz, you’ll know the great diva singers of the past—Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday, Sarah Vaughan… Ella could scat any other vocalist into the ground and took advantage of her four-octave range. Billy could make you cry, and preached new ways of manipulating a phrase. Sarah had the voice of an angel and the phrasing of a horn.

Times have changed, though. Today’s jazz is about being original. Oftentimes, showing how technical and brilliant you are requires a new singer to perform in a loud and boisterous fashion. Gretchen Parlato, on the other hand, has a different approach. She makes you lean in and listen.

Parlato attracted the world’s attention in 2001 when she was accepted into the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. She was the first vocalist to ever be accepted into the program. Two years later, she won the prestigious Thelonious Monk Competition. Since then, she has worked with many high-level musicians, including Esperanza Spalding, Kenny Barron and Wayne Shorter, and she has released three albums. Pick up her newest album, Lost and Found, to hear a Parlato original sung with Alan Harris, as well as her take on an old Miles Davis tune, and lots of other breathtaking goodies.

Gretchen Parlato has a way of letting you know how musical she is, without yelling at you. Her tone is always light and her attitude is sensual and full of restraint. Miles Davis once said, “It’s not the notes you play; it’s the notes you don’t play.” Parlato demonstrates the truth of that observation in her approach to old standards as well as with her original music.

Parlato performs at the West End Cultural Centre on June 20, as part of this year’s TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival. Don’t miss the chance to hear this luminary of the jazz community.

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