“a singer with a deep, almost magical connection to the music.”
“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.”
”She's the only singer that I never have to account for or change the way I play; the guitar and the voice are so well balanced that no one is ever out in front. We complete each other.”
- Lionel Loueke
In 2001, Gretchen Parlato was accepted into the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance by a panel of judges including Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard and Wayne Shorter. Parlato was the first vocalist ever admitted into the program. She went on to win first place in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Judges included Quincy Jones, Flora Purim, Jimmy Scott, Al Jarreau, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Kurt Elling.
Gretchen's self-titled first album was aptly named "Gretchen Parlato." It was subsequently named #5 Best Progressive Jazz CDs of 2005 by Jazz Nation and received 5 stars in Down Beat's Blindfold Test by Richard Bona in July 2007. Gretchen was named #3 Rising Star Female Vocalist in DownBeat's 55th Annual Critics Poll in 2007. Later that year, she performed with jazz legend Wayne Shorter at La Villette Jazz Festival in Paris.
Gretchen has quickly found herself wafted into the heavens as a major jazz performer. In August 2010, she was voted #2 Rising Star Vocalist in Downbeat's Annual Critics Poll. She has been a featured vocalist on recordings by Esperanza Spalding, Kenny Barron, Lionel Louke, and dozens of others. Despite her rising star, Gretchen remains firmly grounded in the joy of music. Gretchen says "I sing from my heart and soul and hope that people feel that. I just want them to feel something. That could be joy or sadness, as long as it moves them in some way."
Grechen's talent became apparent in her early childhood—in fact, her album In a Dream includes a handful of snippets of Gretchen belting out songs in perfect rhythm and remarkable pitch at age 2. "I thought it was fitting to try to work these early recordings in with my current music, because it shows the first steps of my musical path, who I am, where I come from," she says. "It makes me realize that music was in me since the very beginning, I had no choice but to pursue it and share it."
Gretchen´s musical abilities blossomed as she attended the L.A. County High School for the Arts, and later graduated from UCLA with a BA in Ethnomusicology/Jazz Studies. She and Tierney Sutton are friends - and along with musical connection - Gretchen was a nanny for Tierney's son. In 2001 Gretchen lifted off to New York and her well (and early) earned place among the stars. Gretchen is among the rare vocalists who will not only leave a legacy to jazz, but probably also change the course of it.
Gretchen's quartet includes the Taylor Eigsti on piano, Alan Hampton on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums.