Gretchen Parlato performs at UB's Center for the Arts

Grammy-nominated jazz singer comes to campus


Gretchen Parlato, Grammy-nominated jazz singer, graced the drama theater stage at UB’s Center for the Arts Saturday.

In a well-received event, she played songs from her critically acclaimed album Gretchen Parlato – Live in NYC and gave fans of the Jazz genre a reason to follow her musical career.

Parlato performed among building sounds of bass, which was followed by piano and drums, where she sang songs of love and intimacy.

Backed up by Taylor Eigsti on the piano, Alan Hampton playing bass, guitar and vocals, and Kendrick Scott on the drums, Parlato set aside time to play duets with each member.

During her first song she stepped away from the microphone stand, listening the collective sounds of her band.

The musicians played emotionally – their faces expressed the sounds of their instruments.

Sandy Henning, an Orchard Park resident, said Parlato’s performance was “phenomenal.”

“I’ve never heard of her until a friend got tickets, I definitely will be following her in the future. Every musician played exquisitely,” she said.

While performing “Holding Back The Years,” Eigsti began a piano solo as the lights dimmed and Parlato began to clap in a gentle, rhythmic fashion, singing doo-wop.

The next track “Butterfly,” the first track off of her Grammy-nominated project, was an explosion of blue and red light, rhythmic drums and intense vocals from Parlato.

After performing her first few songs, Parlato took time to introduce the band and speak to the audience: “These songs are a pleasure to sing, it’s been awhile since we’ve all played together,” she said.

Eigsti and Scott exited the stage when Parlato would begin her first solo with bassist Allan Hampton performing “After All.”

Parlato’s talent for coordinating with her band members was evident in “After All.”

The song started with the slow plucking of bass strings and Parlato’s clapping and centered around the hook, which the duo sung together: “Don’t call it a miracle if that’s not what it is at all.”

“I’ve never heard of her before, but they were extraordinary. [Parlato’s] voice was incredible and her band was fantastic,” said Todd Branson, a Buffalo resident. “I first became interested in through reading about her, it was a spur of the moment attendance, but I will be following her.”

Parlato would put a spin on classic French vocal jazz with the addition of the drums in her song “Doralice,” making for a more contemporary listening experience.

“We’ll do one more song,” said Parlato before jokingly following up with, “maybe more. We’ll do a fake leave, you’ll clap and we’ll do some more songs”

The most heartfelt song of the night was her performance of “Magnus” – Parlato taught the crowd the hook and everyone in the theatre sang along.

Before performing “Magnus,” Parlato gave the audience some insight into the story behind the song.

“Magnus is the name of a little boy – when he was five he sang a lullaby [to his mother’s stomach] he wrote when his mother was pregnant with his little brother Thadius,” she said. “I had it recorded and added certain aspects to the song.”

Janelle Azra, a junior communications major, said, “The show was amazing, I like how she used the band and performed a spectrum of sounds.”

The debut of the CFA’s Jazz series ended with Gretchen Parlato leaving the drama theatre amid a standing ovation from a full house.

The next event in the CFA’s Jazz series is Kendrick Scott on Jan. 30.

Kenneth Kasif Thomas is an arts desk editor and can be reached at