She is a Los Angeleno by birth, with a richness of diversity in her earliest music and art experiences. Her father was a bassist who played with Frank Zappa. A world of music-making that erased boundaries, and embraced improvisation and irony with audacious wit in the mix. Her mom’s record collection was rich with bossa nova music. This also greatly impressed her. In her words, Gretchen speaks of the impression made by the music: “When I heard João Gilberto’s voice, the texture and simplicity of the music struck me — even at 13 years old. That was definitely a turning point.”
Parlato’s taking of liberties in how she makes music, how she creates it, and how she lets it flow from her has some elements of the same wit and irony and audacious adventure that may well have been her father’s experiences. Those experiences surely have made direct impressions on the vocalist as she has developed and evolved. Her artistry is characterized by playfulness, some unexpected notions, and a devotion to experimenting and adventure. All are key elements of improvisation; it’s not always about how many notes or breathtaking cascades your lines may travel through.
The love affair with music and how it touches and involves began in her teens. The diversity of textures infused inform and intersect, a perfect blend of temptation, innocent and journeyed.
This quote from a master of the genre, Wayne Shorter, in its way speaks to Gretchen Parlato in every word: “I think 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 true blue.”