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Music Review: Gretchen Parlato – In A Dream

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Gretchen Parlato’s voice is the wispy lingerie upon a statuesque woman skipping towards her lover. As she sings throughout the selections on her sophomore effort In A Dream, she manages to weave a surrealism to the mood of each song that even sets apart her renditions of classic songs by Duke Ellington, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and even Michael Jackson.

Amongst the remakes are a couple of originals that are beautifully penned by her. The title track In A Dream is a hypnotizing tune that settles in that soothing space of the deepest of relaxations. As she gently skats through a duet with a Rhodes, you can’t help but breathe deeply and slowly to keep pace. While the rest of the song plays Gretchen almost effortlessly caresses each note with an eager compassion that shines through in the bands execution of breathing life into a mood rather than a mere song.

Also an original, Turning Into Blue takes on the visad of a Vince Guaraldi with Gretchen flowing over the tune. As if your about to watch a Peanut’s cartoon, the track playfully skips about with Aaron Parks beautifully improvising over piano as Gretchen invokes her sweet spirit lyrically.

Another high point on the album is a track that essentially spotlights her skill as a vocalist, an acapella remake of the Brazilian classic Doralice. There, as in the rest of the album, Gretchen’s ability to channel her voice into an instrument with wordless offerings blend with the song in a way that is all her own. Essentially her signature, Gretchen will accompany the solo’s of her incredibly talented band in this way careful to assist and add to the song but not steal the light from the solo itself. The band’s rendition of Herbie Hancock’s Butterfly is a great example of this.

A masterful rendition of the Stevie Wonder penned and Michael Jackson performed I Can’t Help It also shows how her spirit and voice manage to assist and push the band to allow them all to make their version of the song their own rather than a mere impression.

Even the SWV hit Weak has been transformed here into a jazzy movement that Parlato manages to claim as her own as well.

Thankfully, this project is one that does not require the use of the “next” button. The entire program is a compilation of soothing renditions and songs that are a mental massage for a time wrought with stress. So deserving of all of such awards as the prestigious 2004 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, Gretchen has the uncanny ability to move and mold the mood and emotion of any song and remake it into a stunning part of her growing catalogue.

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  • i just got turned on to gretchen, and i love she just sounds so natural without even trying. good to know that she graduated ethnomusicology like me self! 🙂