Flor

Gretchen Parlato

Flor

Flor marks vocalist Gretchen Parlato’s return to recording after becoming a mother. Producing the set herself, she gets an extraordinarily rich and inventive sound from just a small group (also called Flor) consisting of guitarist and musical director Marcel Camargo, cellist Artyom Manukyan, and drummer/percussionist Léo Costa. The Brazilian theme emerges right away on the English/Portuguese cover “É Preciso Perdoar” (a beauty from the 1973 classic João Gilberto), and it pervades the set, with Camargo’s nylon-string guitar and cavaquinho and Costa’s hybrid percussion drum kit front and center. Manukyan’s cello is the shape-shifter, moving effortlessly between full, bass-like pizzicato and lush bowed melodic parts that blend uncannily with Parlato’s expressive, somewhat fragile yet resonant voice.
The group is radiant on originals (“Wonderful,” “Magnus”), bassist Chris Morrissey’s poignant “What Does a Lion Say?”, the Roy Hargrove evergreen “Roy Allan” (featuring percussion giant Airto Moreira), and the ’80s Anita Baker R&B hit “Sweet Love.” Parlato takes on the challenge of a voice-cello duet on Pixinguinha’s “Rosa,” and mounts an ambitious rework of a Bach cello suite, maintaining the Brazilian vibe with great skill. Gerald Clayton’s beautiful piano and Rhodes broaden the canvas, and David Bowie’s elegiac “No Plan,” with a guest spot from Parlato’s husband, Mark Guiliana (the drummer on the original Bowie track), is the culmination. “Here...there’s no music here,” Parlato sings as she inhabits Bowie’s haunting opening lyric. And yet on Flor, music is abundant, greeting listeners from every angle.

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