Herbie Hancock describes Gretchen Parlato as “a singer with a deep, almost magical connection to the music.” Wayne Shorter adds, “In an inconspicuous way, Gretchen Parlato knows how to play the same instrument that Frank Sinatra played. There’s no one out there like Gretchen.”
Gretchen was born in Los Angeles, California, and raised by a musical family. Her father, Dave Parlato, played bass with Frank Zappa, Al Jarreau, Barbra Streisand, and Henry Mancini, and her grandfather was a trumpet player. You can hear evidence of Gretchen’s strong phrasing at an early age on her 2009 album, In A Dream (ObliqSound). The vocalist graduated from the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and later attended UCLA, where she studied ethnomusicology and jazz. In 2001, Gretchen was the first vocalist ever to be accepted into the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance. The experience proved to be formative, as much for Gretchen’s development as it was for her peers and faculty members’ impressions of her.
After graduating from the institute, Gretchen made the move to New York. It wasn’t long before she began performing and recording with her classmates and teachers, and the word spread quickly. Within a year, she found herself in front of a panel of Thelonious Monk Institute judges again, this time competing for the vocal competition, in which she took first prize. The vocalist has appeared on over sixty albums, and toured the world over with her own ensembles, as well as those led by Wayne Shorter, Terence Blanchard, Kenny Barron, Terri Lyne Carrington and Esperanza Spalding, among others.
Gretchen and her collaborators have released three highly acclaimed recordings. She followed her self-released eponymous debut album with In A Dream, a breakout success which introduced her music to wider audiences. Most recently, Gretchen released The Lost and Found (ObliqSound), which held the #1 slot on iTunes Jazz for four weeks and received numerous year-end accolades. The album features her close collaborators, including the pianist Taylor Eigsti, the bassist Derrick Hodge, and the drummer Kendrick Scott, as well as special guests Dayna Stephens (saxophone) and Alan Hampton (guitar and vocals). Gretchen speaks:
One day we may think we’ve found all the answers, and then something suddenly happens that makes us feel completely lost as though nothing makes sense. This is life. Accepting that we are always in transition without attaching a judgment to the experience is freeing. We are always the lost and found.
Gretchen has been bringing her bands to The Gallery since she first moved to New York, and we look forward to welcoming her back this Saturday in a duo configuration with the pianist Taylor Eigsti.
Watch Gretchen and Taylor performing “Butterfly” at the 6th annual Oceanside Jazz Festival.