Gretchen Parlato – Lost and Found – Obliqsound OSD-CD-113, 60:00 ****½:
(Gretchen Parlato – vocals; Taylor Eigsti – piano, Rhodes, Hammond B-3; Derrick Hodge – electric and acoustic Bass; Kendrick Scott – drums; Dayna Stephens – tenor sax; Alan Hampton – guitar and vocals; Robert Glasper – Rhodes)
In an interview on Lost and Found, her third album as leader, Gretchen Parlato described her philosophy as this—”You just have to allow the moment of what you are going through to come out in an honest way. And that’s all you can do.”
If these words sound as much about her approach to life as to music, its an ambiguity that fits Parlato well. She never hides behind virtuosic displays of technique, instead seeking the heart of the moment she’s in. Her voice is a revelation—exceedingly human, sometimes showing an edge rough and sweet, registering her every breath beautifully. The only singer to attend the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute—she filled the trumpet spot—Parlato plants her voice deep within the music, rather than in front and set slightly apart from it. When she shifts between words and singing wordlessly, she retains the same expressiveness, never aping other instruments or scatting—vocal approaches that rarely escape the feeling like a gimmick.
Parlato surrounds herself with friends, building a collective sound with the rapport of shared history and simpatico sensibilities. All of her fellow travelers here are composers in their own right, lavishing care on the minute details and micro-moments integral to the impressionistic naturalism Parlato pursues.
To her credit, she recognizes allowing space for her collaborators to shine only strengthens the whole. Derrick Hodge transforms his electric bass into the rhythmically melodic sound of an amplified kalimba in the introduction to “Without A Sound,” one of the album’s most arresting moments.
Taylor Eigsti, a touring companion of Parlato’s for years, acts as ideal accompanist. He wields an array of instruments to masterfully set the mood, coming fully to the foreground only to solo strikingly. When he takes up the a capella groove of “Me and You” on the Rhodes, Eigsti and Parlato craft a song that could compel at least a foot tap from the stodgiest, most sedimentary of jazz aficionados.
Parlato reprises her lyricized version of Wayne Shorter’s “Juju,” which is still a bit confusing for its references to “Footsteps”—on her debut the piece was a medley of the two. This time she unearths a slight unease within the tune, starting the song with a meditative Eigsti and Kendrick Scott torturing a tense screech out his cymbals. Dayna Stephens’s tenor trades off with Parlato, escalating the song’s energy until the two meet in a whirlwind convergence, melting into each other in a long-held, exhilarating high note. “Juju” silences any skeptics holding out for vocal pyrotechnics as proof of her power.
As expected from the fluid perfectionism of Parlato and her ensemble, each small piece of the album’s entirety equally merits enthusiastic explication, but as its far better to listen to music than read about it, I’ll leave off before going further. Failing to mention, for example, her long time touring bassist, Alan Hampton’s singer-songwriter contribution “Still,” which proves the primacy of acoustic guitar and voice remains. Ultimately, Gretchen Parlato, widely hailed as rising star, continues to actively propel jazz toward fresh further possibilities. Lost and Found, marks another important step in this evolution. It also displays her cohort of contemporaries equally committed to enlivening the tradition through innovation and the renewal of its relevance to wide audiences. Tracking Parlato’s extensive list of appearances as sideperson, including Esperanza Spalding and Kendrick Scott Oracle, paints a picture of the larger continuum within which she operates.
TrackList: Holding Back the Years, Winter Wind, How We Love, Juju, Still, Better Than, Alo Alo, Circling, Henya, In A Dream Remix, All That I Can Say, Me and You, Blue In Green,The Lost and Found, Without A Sound
— Robin Margolis