Young Vocalist Shows Charisma, Talent, Maturity

Review by DAVID STEINBERG
Albuquerque Journal, August 1996.

Rarely does a jazz singer come along whose voice instantly sweeps you off your feet. That is the case with Gretchen Parlato, a swinging young vocalist who fronted a trio Monday night at the packed Outpost Performance Space. Parlato created an intimacy with her audience through her singing and scatting, and she seemed to achieve that intimacy in a manner that was both relaxed and direct. Listeners could have felt those qualities whether they were sitting in a front-row seat or off to the side and back where Parlato made occasional eye contact.

Parlato served up a full plate of 10 tunes, mostly standards, during the evening. She opened up with the lilting "Pick Yourself Up," "Night and Day" and a haunting, extended version of Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight." On that third song, Parlato's self-assured phrasing and muted, almost nasal, tone produced a heavenly interpretation of this oft-covered work. From there, she moved on to an uptempo arrangement of "Honeysuckle Rose" that Ella Fitzgerald popularized, a take on a little known Antonio Carlos Jobim called "If You Never Come to Me" and a nicely finessed all-scat version of Charlie Parker's "Confirmation." The final segment of the evening included the ballad "I Should Care" in a funky way, Bronislaw Kaper's "Invitation," "My One and Only Love" and the final "Bye Bye Blackbird," on which she demonstrated a surprising but effective use of falsetto.

Parlato has quite a mature voice and sophisticated manner considering that she's only 20 years old. Backing her up were pianist Bob Fox, drummer John Trentacosta and dad-bassist David Parlato. One could not have found an ensemble that would be more complementary to the vocalist. The performance was on the first half of a concert, the fifth in a six-part summer jazz series at the Outpost. It's unlikely Albuquerque will be hearing Gretchen Parlato soon since she's a student at UCLA. But if and when she does come back, don't miss the opportunity to hear her.