Since winning the 2004 Thelonious Monk Institute International Vocal Competition, Parlato has released three critically acclaimed albums. The successful self-produced 2005 debut, Gretchen Parlato, landed her on ObliqSound, which released In a Dream, and was named Billboard Magazine's "Most Alluring Jazz Vocal Album of 2009" and NPR's "The Year's Best New Jazz." Her latest, 2011's The Lost and Found, topped charts worldwide and was rated the #1 Vocal Album of the Year by iTunes Jazz, Radio TSF Jazz Paris, and London's The Guardian.
Parlato's new album and DVD set, Live in NYC, serves as both a gift of gratitude for those loyal fans and a window into her captivating concert performances. Style Weekly gives insight to her live performances, saying "in performance, jazz vocalist Gretchen Parlato is a revelation... her diaphanous voice expands into an instrument of impressive range, rhythmic sophistication and emotional power." The Jazz Breakfast even picks up on the differences between her records and live performance, commenting, "the New York-based Californian and her band are terrific on record, but in live performance they fill the music with even more energy, stretching it like some magic pliable plastic into new and exciting forms. The rhythmic and dynamic expertise of all four is extraordinary. They shift the accents around, they pause, and fall back in perfectly, they deepen the groove and then 'shallow' it gently again." This set truly exemplifies the evolution of these songs since their inception years ago.
For Parlato, the release of Live in NYC is an opportunity to take a pause and look back over what has been a remarkably active and creative decade, and also to pay tribute to the city that has made it possible. "This album represents the beloved live performances we've shared over many years of playing together all over the world," says Parlato. "Though, it's especially personal for me to have recorded in New York City, as 2013 marks 10 years of calling NYC my home after moving from Los Angeles."
While Parlato has performed on some of the world's most prestigious concert halls including Carnegie Hall, Hollywood Bowl, London Jazz Festival, North Sea & Montreal Jazz Festival, she chose the intimacy of Rockwood Music Hall for this special recording. Two different incarnations of Parlato's transfixing working bands came together for two nights in December 2012 to record Live in NYC. "Over these years of touring together, two specific bands have stood out to me: Taylor Eigsti, Alan Hampton, and Mark Guiliana, and Eigsti, Burniss Earl Travis II, and Kendrick Scott. Each band has their own unique dynamic and approach to the music. I knew I had to feature both. I've spent so many years touring with these wonderful musicians," she explains. "I've always wanted to capture and share the magical energy, connection, and interaction of a live performance. Singing with these musicians has uplifted and inspired me, each of them supporting and challenging me as a singer."
The album's nine live tracks (four of which appear on the accompanying DVD) are culled from Parlato's three albums but all of the material has been significantly transformed in the years since it was recorded. While her artistic growth has been evident on each successive album, it's particularly enlightening to have the opportunity to revisit this material and witness first-hand how it has changed over years of bandstand evolution. It also allows Parlato's dedicated fans to carry home the experience they've only been able to share in nightclubs or via festival stages.
"I thought of featuring the songs that been reworked into versions that are different from how we recorded them in the studio," reflects Parlato. "So much of what we do is about the interpretive and improvisatory element each time we approach the music. The live album is accompanied by a DVD, as I wanted to make sure there was a visual component to enhance the aural experience. I find it especially fascinating to watch performers live, and get a detailed look into how they approach and play their instruments, and the dynamic and often subtle interplay between musicians," says Parlato.
Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly," which opens the album, has changed from In a Dream's intimate trio performance with guitarist/vocalist Lionel Loueke and bassist Derrick Hodge, to a simmering, soulful full-band treatment here. "Alô Alô" from The Lost and Found, has intensified from its original multi-layered track of Parlato's voice and percussion, to a driving rhythmic showcase, each band member playing their instruments percussively. One of Parlato's most popular covers, a Robert Glasper re-arrangement of SWV's "Weak," played live moves with a spacious, shifting, and elusive groove that spotlights the band's elastic cohesion. Live in NYC closes with Parlato's original "Better Than," with the audience singing along, almost chanting together in this spellbinding arrangement.
Upcoming Gretchen Parlato Performances:
September 19 / Mississippi State University - Lyceum Series / Mississippi State, MS
September 21 / Jazz School / Berkeley, CA
September 22 / Jazz School (masterclass) / Berkeley, CA
September 24 / Beta Level (masterclass) / Los Angeles, CA
September 25 / Blue Whale / Los Angeles, CA
September 26 / The Outpost / Albuquerque, NM
September 28 / Tempe Center for the Arts / Tempe, AZ
October 5 / Folly Theater / Kansas City, MO
October 14 / Paperbox / Brooklyn, NY
October 23 / The Smith Center for the Performing Arts / Las Vegas, NV
October 25 / Buckley Recital Hall, Amherst College / Amherst, MA
November 16 / Rockwood Music Hall / New York, NY
Stay tuned for "Live in NYC" release show in NYC
Gretchen Parlato· Live in NYC // ObliqSound · Release Date: October 8, 2013