Gretchen Parlato: Master Of Restraint

Apr 19, 2011
Originally published on April 19, 2011 10:18 pm

Singer Gretchen Parlato is probably best known for her work with the Grammy-winning jazz star Esperanza Spalding. In between recording and touring with Spalding last year, Parlato found time to record her third album.

The Lost and Found sparkles from beginning to end, but one track, "Still," stands out. The words could have been lifted straight from one of those New Age calendars of daily affirmations. When Gretchen Parlato sings them, however, they grow wings.

It's easy to be cynical about love songs, especially ones from jazz divas. This one stopped me in my tracks. It feels as though Parlato, who wrote the words to music by bassist Alan Hampton, is sharing a private meditation at 11 beats per measure, about being true to the ideal of love no matter what happens. It's striking to hear her deliver an expression of such fierce resolve in what is essentially a whisper.

This album offers other transfixing shades of quiet. It opens with what could be dismissed as a typical jazz-singer crossover move — a cover of Simply Red's "Holding Back the Years." Later, Parlato spins through wonderful philosophical lyrics she wrote to Wayne Shorter's jazz classic "Juju." But it's in "Still" that you hear this master of restraint at her best: creating something profound out of a singsong melody and a few simple words.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

We're going to take a few minutes now to listen to a love song. It's a song that leapt out at our critic, Tom Moon. And that's saying something, given that he's heard a lot of music about love. This song comes from jazz singer Gretchen Parlato. It's on her new album, "The Lost and Found."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STILL")

TOM MOON: The words of Gretchen Parlato's song still could be lifted straight from one of those new age calendars of daily affirmations.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STILL")

GRETCHEN PARLATO: (Singing) Even if it makes me cry, I still love. Even if I don't know why, I still love.

MOON: But when she sings them, they grow wings.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STILL")

PARLATO: (Singing) Even when things fall apart, I still love. Even if you break my heart, I still love.

MOON: It's easy to be cynical about love songs, especially ones from jazz divas. This one stopped me in my tracks. It feels as though Parlato, who wrote the words to music from her bassist Alan Hampton, is sharing a private meditation. At 11 beats per measure, she sings about being true to the ideal of love no matter what happens.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STILL")

PARLATO: (Singing) Even when I feel alone, I still love. Even if I have no home, I still love. Till my fears have gone away, I still love. Let it go and come what may, I still love.

MOON: It's striking to hear an expression of such fierce resolve delivered at what is essentially a whisper.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STILL")

PARLATO: (Singing) Through my joy and through my pain, I still love. Like the sun that follows rain, I still love. No beginning and no end, I still love. Love so love comes back again, I still love.

MOON: The album offers other equally transfixing shades of quiet. It opens with what could be dismissed as a typical jazz-singer crossover move - a cover of Simply Red's "Holding Back the Years." Later, Gretchen Parlato spins through wonderful philosophical lyrics she wrote to Wayne Shorter's jazz classic "Juju." But it's on this song, "Still," that you hear this master of restraint at her best, creating something profound out of a singsong melody and a few simple words.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STILL")

PARLATO: (Singing) Even when things fall apart, I still love. Even if you break my heart, I still love.

NORRIS: The song is called "Still." It's on the new album from Gretchen Parlato, "The Lost and Found." And our reviewer is Tom Moon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.