We all know what winning an American Idol competition can do for a singer’s career. Even a Top 10 showing can keep a performer working for years. Winning one of the world’s most prestigious jazz competitions can also prove a worthwhile endeavor.
Singer-songwriter Gretchen Parlato was a relative unknown in the jazz field. Then came her first-place finish at the 17th annual Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, singing Frank Loesser’s “I’ve Never Been In Love Before” to an esteemed panel of judges that included Al Jarreau, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Kurt Elling. Three years earlier, she was the first-ever vocalist admitted to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance.
The competition has been a valuable stepping stone for aspiring jazz artists, especially vocalists. Two of today’s top jazz singers: Jane Monheit and Roberta Gambarini, were finalists in 1998, finishing behind the late Teri Thornton, who, at age 64, secured a recording contract with Verve Records.
2004 winner Parlato has appeared as a guest vocalist on more than 50 albums. She recently released her third solo collection, The Lost And Found.
Parlato puts a jazz spin on Simply Red’s “Holding Back The Years.” She also tackles the Miles Davis classic “Blue In Green,” and Lauryn Hill’s “All That I Can Say.”
With influences ranging from pop standards to Brazilian jazz, Parlato describes her music as all-encompassing. Wondering what to call it? “Just listen and you can decide for yourself,” Parlato advises.