It is hard to listen to Gretchen Parlato without hearing something celestial in her singing. To be sure, she sings in a jazz idiom and her vocalastics may be the epitome of jazz itself. She is spiritual to the extent that she sings from the bottom of her very soul; indeed from the bottom of her very being. She bends and twists notes, phrases and as a result her lines are like the proverbial double helix and which dances almost head over heels. Her range may be great, but she never seems to use it, preferring to stay within the confines of a husky soprano whose ability to soar is almost automatic just as her ability to dive deep down and swoop into what seems like an ocean of music, in which she creates ripples, forcing a rush of blood to the head. This elicits emotions of a visceral kind and can turn a simple song into vortex of great power and spectral beauty. This is what makes Live in NYC such an extraordinary album to listen to and to behold, thanks to a short DVD that captures four beautiful songs from the concert, recorded at the Rockwood Music Hall during December 5 and 6, 2012.
The concert has many highlights. These begin with a favourite vehicle for Ms. Parlato’s voice and percussion routine: Herbie Hancock’s 1974 chart “Butterfly”. Turning that gentle piece of classic music into a vocal classic is no mean feat. Ms. Parlato makes this seem easy with the fluttering gentility of her voice as she makes the lyric glide and leap as if it were act of that very creature. Adding to the hues of Mr. Hancock’s sometimes deliciously drunken rhythm-heavy song, Ms. Parlato weaves her brush as if it were a magic wand, dipping into her endless palette of colours. Ms. Parlato’s arrangement is more light and airy. Another fine chart comes from the pen of Paulinho da Viola and is entitled “Alô, Alô”. Here Ms. Parlato brings more than hypnosis to the music; she uses hands and throat to mimic, by turns minor percussion such as a caxixi, a cuica and magically a pandeiro as well; all this while singing in near-perfect Portuguese. Ms. Parlato also turns in stellar performances of “Holding Back The Years” and a bewitching version of Wayne Shorter’s “Juju”. However, it is the lyric beauty of “Weak” that is extraordinarily heartbreaking and so elementally beautiful that it could very well be the highest highlight of the album.
Pianist Taylor Eigsti takes charge of the music in two trios which he runs in an outstanding manner. Mr. Eigsti is a fine pianist who has a great listening ear and this can be seen in all the music especially on “Butterfly” and “Weak”. The solidity of each rhythm section is quite beyond reproach and both bassists: Alan Hampton and Burniss Earl Travis II, as well as drummers Kendrick Scott and Mark Guillana appear to be inspired choices. Judging by the music that is already on the CD and the DVD, it is almost certain that there must be a few more gems that were edited out of the record (DVD especially) for want of space, perhaps. This if any is the only drawback of the record: that it could have held more music. But then there is cost and always the hope that more of this music will emerge at some point in time quite soon.
Track List: CD: Butterfly; All That I Can Say; Alô, Alô; Within Me; Holding Back The Years; Juju; Weak; On The Other Side; Better Than. DVD: Butterfly; Alô, Alô; Weak; Better Than.
Personnel: Gretchen Parlato: voice and percussion; Taylor Eigsti: piano and keyboard; Alan Hampton: bass and voice (1, 3 – 6); Mark Guillana: drums (1, 3 – 6); Burniss Earl Travis II: bass and voice (2, 7 – 9); Kendrick Scott: 2, 7 – 9).
Released – 2018
Label – ObliqSound
Runtime – 1:01:09