Nicki Parrott is a rarity: a bassist who sings. And she does both very well. This is the second Arbors outing for this charming duo of her and pianist Rossano Sportiello. Parrott first came to the U.S. in 1994 from Australia via an arts grant, enabling her to study bass with Rufus Reid. From 2000 until Les Paul’s passing last year, she was the guitar legend’s Monday-night bassist at New York City’s Iridium. Her duties included supporting Paul musically and also trading funny repartee.
On bass, Parrott is an able improviser with a marvelous, innate sense of swing, heard to great advantage on Tommy Flanagan’s “Sea Changes” and on the little-heard—these days, anyway—”Idaho” by Jesse Stone. As a singer, she’s relatively straight-ahead, devoid of unnecessary effect; a more throaty combination of Blossom Dearie and Joanie Sommers. Her simplicity works well on Milton Drake’s “I Love the Way You’re Breaking My Heart,” “Do It Again” and several other chestnuts.
Italian-born Sportiello—he came to the U.S. permanently in 2007—is a rousing player who straddles the bop of Tommy Flanagan, the traditionalism of Teddy Wilson and even a bit of ragtime. Sportiello has named Barry Harris as his mentor, and like Harris, who has called Sportiello the best ragtime pianist ever, he’s clean as a whistle and never misses, no matter what the tempo. He even tries his hand at a vocal in tandem with Parrot on “Two Sleepy People.” A Vic Damone he’s not, but the duo works, and these two should do more of it. This is the type of timeless music that used to be heard at places like the Café Carlyle. It should be again.Originally Published