3:08pm

Tue April 19, 2011
Music Reviews

Gretchen Parlato: Master Of Restraint

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. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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