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April 2008

Jennifer Parde
Natural Surreality
Jennifer Parde

A budding vocalist and pianist, Maryland-based Jennifer Parde refers to her music as “organic jazz fusion,” an apparently self-realized genre that, she claims, comprises “a rhythmic vocabulary, harmonic sophistication and inherent level of musical complexity.” Heavy stuff, at least in theory. In practice, Parde’s sound, as both a singer and player, seems a far more straightforward blend of traditional folk-rock and smooth-jazz, with an occasional dash of funk thrown in for good measure. Her pure, rather ethereal voice doesn’t represent a huge leap from, say, Carole King or Carly Simon, but is enough steps past either to suggest proximity to the greater inventiveness and dynamism of Joni Mitchell. Her readings of “Morning Has Broken” and “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” are lovely exercises in New Age-ish reverence, her loping interpretation of Sting’s “Fragile” effectively hints at haunted urgency and her “Lazy Afternoon” overflows with imaginative touches. As a songwriter, Parde inches even closer to Mitchell. Her way with words is astutely evocative as, on such richly conjured compositions as “Black Unicorn,” “Undertide” and “December Light,” she paints densely layered dreamscapes.

Originally published in April 2008
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