Fridays Live: Gretchen Parlato & Lionel Loueke
Fridays Live • SFJAZZ At Home

Gretchen Parlato & Lionel Loueke

originally filmed on OCT 15, 2023

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Gretchen Parlato & Lionel Loueke

This collaborative project between the acclaimed singer (and former member of the SFJAZZ Collective) and the innovative guitarist known as a bandleader and longtime musical partner of Herbie Hancock has been years in the making.

In hindsight, it makes perfect sense that Los Angeles native Gretchen Parlato and Benin-born Lionel Loueke would become fast friends when they met while auditioning in 2001 for the prestigious master’s program at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.

In the Guardian's recent 4-star review, they describe the music on the new album as “dreamy Brazilian echoes of Astrud Gilberto and Carlos Jobim on Astronauta, a Brazilian standard from the bossa nova era, but the palette is wide, embracing west Africa, R&B – I Miss You, an 80s power ballad by Klymaxx – and even a Foo Fighters cover.”

With her pillowy voice and liquid phrasing she went on to win the 2004 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition for Vocals and influence an entire generation of singers. He quickly started touring with his Monk Institute professor Terence Blanchard, who turned Loueke’s unique approach to guitar and extended vocal palette a central part of his band’s sound. Over the past two decades they’ve contributed to each other’s albums and stayed in close contact, but with their burgeoning careers they didn’t have a chance to fully collaborate until the world shut down in 2020.

Conceptualized, written, and recorded while in the grips of a global pandemic, their new Edition Records album Lean In tells the story of 20 years of connection, inspiration and friendship between intrepid comrades in sonic exploration. Two singular improvisers who delight in each other’s company, Parlato and Loueke are, in his words, “musical soulmates” devoted to experimentation and ascension.

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