Recorded in New York at Kampo Studios on September 16, 2008 and Legacy Recording Studios on December 17 and 18, 2008.
Gretchen Parlato is a rising star in vocal jazz circles of the 2000s who everyone should pay attention to and enjoy. Her singing is pure sterling silver, accented with just a hint of ethnic shadings and a big helping of modern style that goes well beyond standard fare. As alluring, distinct, and mature as her youthful instrument is, she deserves extra credit for choosing some of the most interesting young players who also are ascending to major-league status. Guitarist/vocalist Lionel Loueke, keyboardist Aaron Parks, bassist Derrick Hodge, and drummer Kendrick Scott are all leaders in their own right, but add bright and inventive accompaniment that perfectly matches the pristinely hopeful sounds Parlato expresses. The music taps from many sources, including a cute vocal variation of Herbie Hancock's funky "Butterfly," Wayne Shorter's "E.S.P." with rain forest imagery, scat, and quirky 6/8 beats, or Duke Ellington's "Azure" in adapted 5/4 time with Loueke's guitar and Hodge in late. Stevie Wonder's "I Can't Help It" is a pining, crossover, Latin-tinged love song as Parlato sings and Loueke scats and add mouth pops, while Dori Caymmi's skittering "Doralice" is easily representative of expanded tropicalia sensuality. Parks, much like his peer Robert Glasper, has the modern spirit song, loose-repeat-phrased-and-deep-harmonic piano style down pat. As you listen to the Glasper/Parlato joint composition "In a Dream," or the 7/8 meter of "Turning into Blue," you are enveloped in this thin veneer of cloudy, dream sequence sound that identifies the heart and soul of these unique musicians. "Weak" turns this concept into a rock/funk beat emphasized by Fender Rhodes electric piano juxtaposing choppy rhythms versus Parlato's sweet voice, whereas "On the Other Side" flips the script in a shuffle with percussion in shades of renewal and retrial. A muffled, taped recording of Parlato singing at age two is tacked on two tracks, emphasizing the growth curve she has experienced, but more so how she appreciates the child-like wonder that her music clearly retains. Gretchen Parlato is going to be a major player on the contemporary vocal music scene, jazz or not. In a Dream already shows vast potential realized, and is easily recommended to those who appreciate vocal music with an instrumentalist's concept.
All Music Guide