Gretchen Parlato, "In a Dream"
Gretchen Parlato won the prestigious 2004 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, released her mildly promising self-titled debut the following year and since then has sung in supporting roles on several significant jazz releases. With her second release, " In a Dream," Parlato's time has arrived. So far, the set is the most alluring jazz vocal album of 2009. With an impressive band that includes longtime cohort Lionel Loueke on guitar and wordless vocal, Parlato sings with quiet, relentless and oftentimes unpredictable rhythmic grace. She's playfully rapturous on Stevie Wonder's "I Can't Help It," a samba-esque duet with Loueke; joyfully spirited during an a cappella take on the Brazilian tune "Doralice"; and dreamily sensuous whispering over a clipping drum beat on "Within Me." --Dan Ouellette