DownBeat March 2021

has one low string,” Camargo noted. “Many of the arrangements I was bringing [to the proj- ect] were guitar-[centered] ideas already, so there was no need for a bass, really. Instead, I thought we could use the chair for someone like Artyom, who can play the cello as a cello, but also the cello as a bass. “This is nice with Gretchen’s singing, too, becauseher voice is delicate, intimate. Sometimes you add a bass, and the music becomes very big. This [instrumentation] helps her voice to shine.” Parlato again sings without lyrics on “Roy Allan”—this time alongside legendary Brazilian percussionist AirtoMoreira, famous for his work with Chick Corea, Miles Davis and Antônio Carlos Jobim. The track—a tribute to trum- peter Roy Hargrove (1969–2018)—opens with Moreira alone, extemporizing with vocal per- cussion, shakers, whistles, bells and drums to establish a riveting samba for Parlato’s vocalese. Through overdubs, this jaunty melody expands into a full choral passage at the tune’s apogee, only to diminish gradually into Moreira’s striat- ed improvisation. It’s a breathless ride. Moreira, who lives in Brazil, has never met Parlato. He recorded his contribution to “Roy Allan” in his own studio and forwarded the track to fellow Brazilian Costa, with whom he has col- laborated for many years. Even without meeting her, though, Moreira knows well who Parlato is. “The first time I heard of Gretchen was through Flora,”Moreira wrote in an email, refer- ring tohiswife, Brazilian jazz singer FloraPurim. “She was on the jury [at the 2004Monk competi- tion] and couldn’t stop talking about this unpre- tentious young girl whowas improvisingwithout hesitation. Sittingnext toFlorawasQuincy Jones, andhe commentedhow[Gretchen] just came out of nowhere. The rest is history. Gretchen is now one of the best jazz singers around.” Though noted for her exceptional soloing skill, Parlato doesn’t use Flor as a vehicle for improvising. She stretches the bounds in other ways, though—through the odd meter on a ver- sion of Anita Baker’s 1986 r&b hit “Sweet Love,” for instance. Such innovation creates a slight- ly off-kilter feel that leaves the listener unsure of Parlato’s next step, the way an improvisa- tion would; Clayton’s sleek comping on Fender Rhodes only adds to the tune’s spontaneous vibe. “The bulk of the [‘Sweet Love’] arrangement came together when we were in Melbourne and at rehearsal,” Camargo said. “This is something interesting about Gretchen: Whenever she feels that things are starting to settle, maybe a little too much, she’ll throw in something to push us in a different direction. She pushed to take that tune somewhere else. I like that about her, because a lot of artists want to stick with what they know. But she wants to find something new.” For the album’s closing tune, Parlato selected David Bowie’s “No Plan,” the title cut from the superstar’s posthumous 2017 EP. Guiliana—

who contributed to the EP, as well as Bowie’s final album, Blackstar —sits in on the intense track, adding to its relentless momentum. Much of the thrill here comes from the effects added in post-production—the echoes, oscillations and ethereal extrapolations that pay homage to Bowie’s singular eccentricity. On this tune, Bowie’s lyrics about living with an uncertain future seem to resonate with Parlato; of all the tracks on the album, she sounds themost vulnerable on this one. It’s easy to imag- ine, in listening to the lyrics, that where Bowie was contemplating death, Parlato was contem- plating birth. Or rebirth. Or simply change, in its many guises. Parlato and her band recorded the album in Brooklyn in early 2019, two days after a gig at the now-defunct Jazz Standard. That summer, Parlato and her family moved from New York, where she had spent much of her career, to Los Angeles, where she had grown up. Her plan was to continue enhancing the album in post-pro-

duction, and when it was complete, to schedule a tour around its release. The pandemic changed all of that, of course. Fortuitously, independent jazz label Edition Records—home for recording artistsKurt Elling, Chris Potter and Lionel Loueke—was interest- ed in the album, pandemic or no. Parlato liked the deal on offer, which included her first vinyl release, and signed on. “It’s clear that Edition is the kind of label that supports its artists completely,” she said. “It’s a saving grace to be on board.” These days, however, Parlato is content to stayhome, sharingparental dutieswithGuiliana, working onhermusic and teaching remotely. She explained that she wonders whether it would be possible just to make music at home and stop performing onstage altogether. But then she remembers the connection with the audience, how live music feels . So, she remains open to an uncertain future and waits for coming possibili- ties to unfold. Like a flower. DB


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