Tag Archives: Gretchen Parlato

Nobody Does It Better Than Gretchen Parlato

Gretchen Parlato's "The Lost and Found"

Vocalist Gretchen Parlato is music personified — from her heart, through concept, composition and performance, all the way to your heart and mine.  All you have to do to experience this enchanting continuum is listen.

She’s not just a singer.  Gretchen Parlato is a consummate musician and collaborator whose primary instrument just happens to be her  ethereal, entrancing voice. The words she sings are important, especially so for the songs she’s written herself, but these words are just part of the way she expresses emotion with her instrument.  Listening to her is like being deeply moved by some master of some other instrument, maybe an alto sax, and realizing that, yeah, there are beautifully phrased WORDS in there, too, words with deep meaning in their own right.  Her impact as a musician transcends mere words, transcends categorization.

Check out the  hypnotic “Better Than,” from Gretchen Parlato’s latest stop on her musical journey, The Lost and Found (ObliqSound).  She’s one with her fellow musicians and her melody, with and without lyrics.  Give Gretchen Parlato a listen and you’ll become part of this beautiful fusion. As a music lover you can’t do better than that.

On “Better Than” from The Lost and Found:

Gretchen Parlato – vocals
Taylor Eigsti – piano, keyboards
Derrick Hodge – bass
Kendrick Scott – drums
Robert Glasper – producer


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Lionel Loueke’s Superstar Support

Photo by Juan-Carlos Hernandez, Geneva, Switzerland

Lionel Loueke

I’ve been trying to figure out why I like Lionel Loueke’s music as much as I do.

Yes, he’s extremely good at what he does.  He has a distinct musical identity, his own particular combination of influences, and dedication to the craft.  He also has his own unique ways of making music. Whether he’s out front doing his own thing during his concerts or on his own records, I know it’s Lionel Loueke speaking to me from the second I hear his guitar, voice, or both.   The man from Benin is known far and wide for his beautifully moving recordings as a leader.

He is a living bridge between Africa and the West, steeped in the music of his childhood and fluent in America’s music, jazz.   But there’s something else.

It turns out I enjoy his work so much because he is the ultimate collaborator.    Even though he has an incredibly distinct style, when he’s working on someone else’s thing he brings just what’s needed for that moment.

Here are a few examples:
Loueke has a long history of collaboration with singer Gretchen Parlato; they’ve worked on each others’ albums for several years now.  On “Within Me,” from Parlato’s album In A Dream, Loueke seems to lay out during the verses and is gently there for the rest of the piece.   He provides rhythmic pulse and emphasis and stays out of the foreground.   His is a perfect, minimalist effort in support of a beautiful voice and lyric.

Magos Herrera, a very talented singer from Mexico by way of New York City, worked with Loueke on her album Distancia. The album’s opening cut, “Reencuentro,” features Loueke as an up-front member of the rhythm section.  He moves into his solo by echoing the last line of Herrera’s chorus and then has a melodic conversation with pianist Aaron Goldberg.   Here Loueke’s efforts are a prominent part of a successful group effort.

Terence Blanchard worked with Loueke on his latest album Choices. “Byus,” the album’s opening cut, features Loueke’s intro under Dr. Cornel West’s spoken words and his solo over  the cut’s fade.   In between, Loueke comps beautifully under Walter Smith III and Blanchard’s solos.   This time he gives a little signature Loueke in the beginning and a lot of inventive support for the rest of the cut.

I really appreciate the subtle support Lionel Loueke gives to others on their projects.  To me, his efforts are the very essence of the type of collaboration that makes much of today’s jazz so exciting.  Lionel Loueke helps others bring out the best in themselves, and that’s great for jazz fans everywhere.

Photo of Lionel Loueke by Juan-Carlos Hernandez

Lionel Loueke
Lionel Loueke on his technique and influences
Gretchen Parlato
Magos Herrera
Terence Blanchard
Dr. Cornel West

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