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Gretchen Parlato: Master Of Restraint

Gretchen Parlato's new album is <em>The Lost and Found</em>.
David Bartolomi
Courtesy of the artist
Gretchen Parlato's new album is The Lost and Found.

Singer Gretchen Parlato is probably best known for her work with the Grammy-winning jazz star Esperanza Spalding. In between recording and touring with Spalding last year, Parlato found time to record her third album.

The Lost and Found sparkles from beginning to end, but one track, "Still," stands out. The words could have been lifted straight from one of those New Age calendars of daily affirmations. When Gretchen Parlato sings them, however, they grow wings.

It's easy to be cynical about love songs, especially ones from jazz divas. This one stopped me in my tracks. It feels as though Parlato, who wrote the words to music by bassist Alan Hampton, is sharing a private meditation at 11 beats per measure, about being true to the ideal of love no matter what happens. It's striking to hear her deliver an expression of such fierce resolve in what is essentially a whisper.

This album offers other transfixing shades of quiet. It opens with what could be dismissed as a typical jazz-singer crossover move — a cover of Simply Red's "Holding Back the Years." Later, Parlato spins through wonderful philosophical lyrics she wrote to Wayne Shorter's jazz classic "Juju." But it's in "Still" that you hear this master of restraint at her best: creating something profound out of a singsong melody and a few simple words.

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Tom Moon has been writing about pop, rock, jazz, blues, hip-hop and the music of the world since 1983.
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