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05/21/11

Gretchen Parlato
The Lost and Found
Obliqsound Inc

She can sound like morning rain, twilight fog, crashing waves or swirling snowflakes. But tranquil or stormy, dreamy or restive, eider-soft or hard as sleet, Gretchen Parlato remains the freshest and purest of contemporary vocalists. Arriving in the wake of her sophomore triumph, In a Dream, Parlato’s latest might simply be classified as a continued promise expectedly fulfilled. But The Lost and Found is an even fuller, more dynamically creative experience. The tightness of Parlato plus pianist Taylor Eigsti, bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Kendrick Scott, occasionally augmented by saxophonist Dayna Stephens and bassist/guitarist Alan Hampton, is absolute. The overarching theme, as the title suggests, is the unpredictability of life and love and the need to embrace both unanticipated losses and unexpected surprises.

Parlato opens with a shimmering rendition of Simply Red’s “Holding Back the Years,” fragile and diaphanous. Later, she glides through Mary J. Blige’s sweetly tender “All That I Can Say” and, with masterful assistance from producer Robert Glasper, shapes a gorgeously angular rearrangement of Bill Evans’ “Blue in Green.” But the majority of these 15 tracks feature Parlato’s own lyrics fitted to, among others, Eigsti’s ethereal “Without a Sound,” Stephens’ mysterious, meandering title track and Hampton’s roiling “Still,” a paean to love’s perplexities featuring him as dusky vocal partner. All are exceptionally fine, though none as exquisite as a bold reworking of Wayne Shorter’s “Juju” that builds from a single raindrop to a cacophonous deluge.

Originally published in June 2011
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