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Alyn Shipton Alyn Shipton | 11:29 UK Time, Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Gretchen Parlato. Photo xopyright © 2010 Emile Holba.

Gretchen Parlato. Photo copyright © 2010 Emile Holba.

 One of the great things about any jazz festival is the opportunity to hear singers and instrumentalists for the first time. And sometimes, you're fortunate enough to hear a musician who really stands out, and has that indefinable quality that denotes a star.
I'd been aware of the young American singer Gretchen Parlato from her eponymous debut album in 2005, and last year's follow-up, In a Dream. But up until the opening night of this year's London Jazz Festival, with Guy Barker's opulent 'Jazz Voice' show, I had never had the opportunity to hear her live. And the experience was a revelation.
That's not to say she hasn't performed here before, just that I've never managed to get to a show.
Yet, there haven't been all that many opportunities. She is becoming very well-known in her native United States, where she works a lot, and in Europe her main appearances have tended to be in Scandinavia, with showcases this year at Copenhagen, Molde and Stockholm.
However, I suspect that after this year's appearances in London  — she appeared as a guest in bassist Esperanza Spalding's South Bank concert, and did a sold-out solo show at Ronnie Scott's as well as appearing with Guy — she will be back often.
Gretchen Parlato. Photo copyright © 2010 Emile Holba.

Gretchen Parlato. Photo copyright © 2010 Emile Holba.

What was remarkable about her Barbican appearance was that in the company of eight other singers — all, with the exception of 16-year-old Nikki Yanofsky, much more experienced than her —  Gretchen Parlato simply took over the stage. Guy's arrangements were completely in tune with her personality, but her handclaps and a cappela intro to Herbie Hancock's Butterfly and her semi-abstract reading of Wayne Shorter's Juju were totally original. I look forward to hearing her on her next visit to the UK, but in between my other Fesitval duties, I shall be making a point of listening again to her contribution to 'Jazz Voice' which was Monday night's Performance on 3.

For Radio 3's London Jazz Festival page, click here.

The schedule of Radio 3 LJF broadcasts is available - click here.

Click here for the London Jazz Festival website

To visit Alyn Shipton's website, click here

You can hear Gretchen Parlato and the other singers in Guy Barker's Jazz Voice concert by clicking this link.

The London Jazz Festival's appointed photographer is Emile Holba. You can view Emile's photos of this and previous years of the LJF by visiting his website: www.emileholba.co.uk  



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