Gretchen Parlato Flor — All About Jazz

5 STARS *****
"One of the best vocal jazz albums of recent years — Gretchen Parlato returns with a masterful album in which she expresses the balance between refinement, lyricism and intact drive...”

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After an absence of six years dedicated to motherhood, Gretchen Parlato returns with a masterful album in which she expresses the balance between refinement, lyricism and intact drive to creatively reformulate the songs. At the head of a new staff - enriched by Gerald Clayton on piano and keyboards, Mark Guiliana on drums and Airto Moreira on percussion and voice, as guests - the singer from Los Angeles confirms in Flor her position as an absolutely personal interpreter, with nothing to fear in entering the scene of the splendid vocalists of the latest generation. 

The path is even more eclectic than the previous records but the result is very homogeneous and mature. Gretchen Parlato expresses her jazz style always with sophisticated choices (repertoire and interpretations) and a compelling vocal style for the play of timbre shading and pauses, for the sensual emotional tension and the refined timing. 

The title in Portuguese immediately refers to her great love for bossa nova and other Brazilian music that she sings in the original language with her slightly nasal timbre and that indolent gait that is not so easy to assimilate. The connection with Brazil is accentuated by the staff comprising guitarist Marcel Camargo and drummer Leo Costa, two artists of high value and experience, while the presence of the eclectic Armenian cellist Artyom Manukyan is ideal for forays into the classical universe (up to Johann Sebastian Bach). Other valuable reinterpretations come from the repertoires of David Bowie ("No Plan"), Anita Baker ("Sweet Love"), Pixinguinha ("Rosa") and other authors. 

The record begins with a bewitching version of "È Preciso Perdoar," a classic by Joao Gilberto that Gretchen Parlato interprets in English and Portuguese, supported by an iterative rhythmic base of acoustic guitar and cello underlining. A lively fusion atmosphere, enhanced by Clayton's presence at Fender Rhodes, characterizes the reinterpretation of "Sweet Love" and gives the singer the opportunity to improvise using the voice as an instrument. 

Each song is a discovery. The stage of a path carefully conceived on the ground of a colorful and at the same time precious research. A splendid example is the interpretation of "Rosa," a great classic of Brazilian music that Gretchen interprets by vocalizing, in a sumptuous integration with Bachian atmospheres. Another particularly compelling performance is "What Does a Lion Say," a gracefully drawn waltz enhanced by a precious arrangement and intense solos. 

We cannot talk about all the themes but it is really difficult to leave out the radiant carioca exuberance of "Roy Allen," a piece composed by Roy Hargrove that sees Airto Moreira as a guest, the original reading of a part of "Cello Suite No. 1, BWV 1007 "by Bach or the intense and dramatic interpretation of" No Plan "by David Bowie. 

One of the best vocal jazz albums of recent years, and therefore certainly album of the week.