Gretchen Parlato and Lionel Loueke, Lean In Review
Lean In, GRAMMY-nominated vocalist Gretchen Parlato and guitarist Lionel Loueke invite listeners into the immersive sonic world of their 20-year musical journey. Embroidered with the seamless synergy of two deeply connected artistic souls, the album weaves a dual narrative of inherent connectedness and creative spontaneity. Exploring territories untouched, they engage in a musical dialogue that Loueke fittingly terms the “Unknown Zone.” Assembled amidst the throes of a global pandemic, the record carries the weight of global crises and shared human experiences.
Lean In presents twelve emotionally charged songs that testify to resilience, deep introspection, and evolving perceptions of life and art. Two decades on from their New York beginnings, Parlato and Loueke deliver an anticipated collaborative album that dances with playful rhythms, poignant vocal wit, and jazz-based dexterity, all wrapped with an enduring resonance that promises to captivate those who listen.
Loueke’s “Akwê” opens the album, and we are treated to the duo’s innovative use of voice. The two fuse their respective musical cultures as they sing in the native language of Benin, Fon. Loueke’s guitar work imparts an infectious rhythm as his playing style is filled with ghost notes, palm muting, and other percussive techniques.
“Okagbe” is deftly reinterpreted as an evocative interlude leading into “Astronauta,” a moody performance through a Brazilian bossa, sung in Portuguese. Here Parlato’s voice exudes character and emotion. The song is further enhanced by Parlato’s fluent phrasing and Loueke’s lyrical murmurs and percussive guitar playing.
The subtle tones of Afro-Brazilian color bleed into “Muse,” whose relaxed tonality and English lyrics echo again show the two have a broad palette and understanding of cultures.
Parlato also shines on “I Miss You,” a percussively powerful rendition of Klymaxx’s 1984 ballad. Backed by Loueke, Parlato’s voice resounds with a warmth and lightness that transcends the original. Loueke’s track “Nonvignon,” previously featured in his 2005 debut album, is revisited, whereas the new track “Painful Joy” showcases heart-tugging melodies articulated in wordless vocals.
The title track, built with many layers and co-written with drummer Mark Guiliana (Parlato’s husband), reveals its genesis in the sequence of musical motifs. Guiliana’s invigorating drum rhythms intertwine with Travis Burniss’ buoyant bass lines on “If I Knew,” a high mark on the album charged with funky grooves, a sharp afrobeat, electric guitar wah-wah ripples, an exquisite chorus, and an intriguing synth effect emanating from Loueke’s guitar during his developing solos.
The deep groove of “Dù Wé Interlude” is a strong song sound, with the full ensemble supporting the dynamic vocals of Parlato and Loueke.
In conclusion, Lean In captures the multifaceted brilliance of Gretchen Parlato and Lionel Loueke, a blend of unique musical , linguistic diversity, and genre-fluid artistry. This album serves as a beacon of creative exploration, weaving a global tapestry of sound that dips into the wells of jazz, world music, R&B, and beyond. The intricate interplay between Parlato’s nuanced vocals and Loueke’s percussive guitar harmonies, bolstered by the rhythmic foundations laid by Mark Guiliana and Burniss Travis, make for an enchanting listening experience. Ultimately, this long-awaited collaboration underscores the profound impact of shared musical journeys and the boundless possibilities they yield. Lean In invites us all to listen deeply, celebrate diversity, and embrace the sublime beauty found in the symphony of our shared human experience. That’s the Short of It!
Connect with Grechen Parlato: Website |
May 19, 2023