Gretchen Parlato - voc, perc (website | myspace)
Lionel Loueke - g, voc (website | myspace)
Lionel Loueke is a giant of a man whose gentleness doesn't equal complacency. Alongside catchy rhythms, sing-song melodies and showmanship deployed singing a bass line and tongue-clucking percussion while playing not-simple guitar parts, he has a hard-nosed sense of abstraction that ranged from scattered bop lines to near-avant noise-making. His every intervention in this intimate concert was hopeful, luminous, thrilling. I've raved about Loueke's solo album In A Trance before. I won't hesitate to do so again.
It was my first encounter with Gretchen Parlato and she left me with mixed feelings.
Parlato's voice had the kind of gentle attack and limited tessiture and dynamic range that I tend to associate with Brazilian singers, so it seemed logical that they tackle a number of bossa novas. As her expressive nuances weren't always convincing - a crucial element, for her kind of voice - her singing often seemed to meander.
On somber material, however, she could be mesmerising. Rodgers & Hart's "Spring Is Here" was issued in a regretful sigh beyond fatigue, and demonstrated her ability to create a slow, charged, stark atmosphere. The set's first tune emphasised the contrast within the duo between Loueke's sharply articulated rhythm and sheer physical presence, and Parlato's more semi-rubato, ethereal approach, creating great tension by hinting at incompatibility and deftly avoiding it.