(Attucks Theatre, Norfolk, VA 5/18/13) -- What do you call a female bassist, who sings up a storm, has a million-dollar personality, shapely form, a real act, a unique repertoire, comes from Australia and should have been kidnapped by Hollywood on her way to New York?
Answer: Nicki Parrott (Par-ROTT), which rhymes with GOT it all.
A perfect opener, "Fever," emphasized her skill on the bass. She had marvelous support through both sets from pianist John Toomey and drummer Russ Helm. She recently recorded a CD of French songs, some in French. "La Mer" swung mightily and "C'est si bon" featured some hilarious tag endings. "Where Or When" was delightful. "Smile" was sung unaccompanied while perched on the requisite bar stool; utterly exquisite. Charlie Chaplin wrote the melody, but the seldom-credited lyrics were by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons.
On "Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)" she embellished Cole Porter's words. Referring to her pianist, she sang "John Toomey does it." I hope his wife wasn't present! (Think about his last name).
Nicki Parrott could make anyone love jazz!
Link to Cabaret Scenes.
(Regarding the Parrott/Metz/Sportiello Trio concert for Live at the Jazz Corner release)... When done well, it’s great to hear jazz musicians improvise on the classics . This was one of those times... The crowd buzzing and rising en masse for a standing ovation! See Joe Lang's review of the CD below.
Live at the Jazz Corner (Arbors – 19437) is one of those albums that makes an hour seem like five minutes. Put pianist ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, bassist/vocalist NICKI PARROTT and drummer EDDIE METZ together in a club, and let them have at tunes like “Beats Up,” “Gal in Calico,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Li’l Darlin’,” “Blue and Sentimental,” “Spanish Eyes” and “St. Louis Blues,” and the results are pure joy. Allow Parrott to add some tasty vocalizing on Beseme Mucho” and “Fever,” and it provides a dash of sultry allure. Finally, turn Sportiello loose on one of his Chopin extravaganzas where the classics meet jazz to the delight of everyone, and you have a program that is irresistible. I believe that I played this disc at least a half-dozen times within days of receiving it, finding new delights with each listen. You should do the same.
In a decided departure from his last outing, 2008’s Modes of Limited Transcendence, which exclusively featured his original postbop/fusion compositions, guitarist Gene Ess presents a fresh spin on the Great American Songbook. The star of this show is singer Nicki Parrott, also known as the longstanding bassist in the Les Paul Trio. She brings clear articulation, beautiful tone, a sense of rhythmic assuredness and a touch of allure to inventive arrangements of Rodgers and Hart’s “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” Cole Porter’s “So in Love” and Michel Legrand’s haunting “I Will Wait for You.” There’s also a delicious version of Thelonious Monk’s “Reflections,” with Jon Hendricks’ lyrics, and a wonderful version of Gordon Jenkins’ “Goodbye” done as a sprightly bossa nova. Backed by fine players including pianist James Weidman, Ess gets plenty of room to solo within each of these classic tunes, but it’s the charming Parrott who sells them.
In January of 2010, vocalist/bassist Nicki Parrott came into Feinstein’s with Rossano Sportiello on piano and Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar in support for her first gig as a leader at a major New York City venue. The place was packed, and she wowed the folks who came out to support her. Since then, Parrott’s star has continued its ascendency, and her return to Feinstein’s with Sportiello and Pizzarelli conjured up memories of her initial appearance there.
A peppy take on “The Best Things in Life Are Free” set the mood for an evening of continuing pleasures. Sportiello showed contrasting sides to his musical personality by combining a dreamy “Darn That Dream” that conjured up memories of Bill Evans with a stride filled interpretation of “Just You, Just Me.” A wonderful tune by Duke Ellington and Tyree Glenn titled “Sultry Serenade” eventually had lyrics added by Allan Roberts, and became “How Could You Do a Thing Like That to Me.” Parrott and Sportiello gave it a nice bouncy ride that was a delight.
Bucky Pizzarelli arrived on the scene, and immediately was given center stage to perform an engaging medley of “Easy to Remember” and “This Nearly Was Mine.”
Parrott is not only a fine singer and a superb bassist, but she has been known to come up with an original tune that really catches your ear. On this occasion, she chose to perform the whimsically titled “You’re the One I Think I’ve Waited For.”
“Tangerine” was performed as an instrumental punctuated by nice solo work from each member of the trio.
Parrott’s vocalizing was the centerpiece of the next several selections. “Beseme Mucho” received contemplative consideration from her. A light swing approach was taken on “Where or When,” with Parrott giving the verse an acapella treatment. Parrott captured the longing in the words of “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” with accompaniment solely from Pizzarelli’s guitar.” Parrott sings a saucy lyric with the best of them, and her light-hearted reading of “Let’s Do It” included a few contemporary self-penned references.
The evening ended with an instrumental romp on “Honeysuckle Rose.”
Nicki Parrott lights up a room like few others currently on the jazz scene, with Sportiello and Pizzarelli having similar appeal. Put them together, and a special happening is sure to occur. That was certainly the case on this evening at Feinstein’s.
Bassist and vocalist Nicki Parrott was born in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. She got her musical start studying flute and piano, but switched to double bass so she could join her sister's band. Parrott studied at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music in Sydney, and quickly thereafter began touring and playing with professional bands across Australia. Whenever possible, she took lessons with top bassists, including Ray Brown and John Clayton.
In 1994, Parrott was awarded an Arts Council of Australia grant to come to New York and study with acclaimed bassist Rufus Reid, and in 2000, she became a fixture at the late Les Paul's regular Monday-night session at Iridium Jazz Club. Paul encouraged Parrott's vocal talents, and she's emerged as a fine singer and award-winning composer who's recorded several of her own albums and appeared on dozens of records by other artists.
Parrott also performs in Broadway ensembles; her credits include Avenue Q, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, Imaginary Friends, Summer of '42and Jekyll and Hyde.
On this episode of Piano Jazz, Nicki Parrott showcases her swinging vocals and plays upright bass on a set dominated by standards. Fresh from her lunchtime gig at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Parrott joins guest host Jon Weber for Peggy Lee's "Fever," a tune that puts the bass line and the singer right out front. And in "I Love the Way You're Breaking My Heart," Parrott's pure yet knowing voice is again in the spotlight.
Les Paul: Parrott's Mentor
Parrott pays tribute to Les Paul, her great friend and mentor, in "East of the Sun," a favorite of the late "Wizard of Waukesha." Parrott's performance swings easily and faithfully to the original, missing only the accompaniment of Paul's namesake electric guitar. "I learned a lot and got to be close friends with [Paul]," Parrott says. "He was the first one who got me to sing, and it was nice to play for a full room every Monday. With so many other musicians coming by to meet him, it was really a show — onstage and backstage."
In "Besame Mucho," Parrott substitutes the English lyric, but the emotion of the original Spanish tune is left intact, as she gives a slow, smoldering performance with delicate piano flourishes supplied by Weber.
Parrott displays her low-end leanings with the original tune "Come and Get It," a hard bop groover in the spirit of Herbie Hancock or Lee Morgan. And in "Waltzing Matilda," she slows the jaunty, anthemic tempo to a contemplative, moonlit walkabout through the bush.
This session closes with "How High the Moon," another Les Paul favorite that keeps in the mode of bebop codas on Piano Jazz. Parrott takes the opening verse as Weber sets off on a soaring piano solo. Parrott follows with a bass solo before scat singing a few bars from Charlie Parker's "Ornithology" to end this episode.
Set List "Fever" (E. Cooley, J. Davenport, P. Lee) "I Love the Way You're Breaking My Heart" (M. Drake) "East of the Sun" (B. Bowman) "One Less Bell to Answer" (B. Bacharach, H. David) "Besame Mucho" (C. Velazquez) "Come and Get It" (N. Parrott) "Waltzing Matilda" (Traditional) "Here, There, and Everywhere" (J. Lennon, P. McCartney) "How High the Moon" (N. Hamilton, M. Lewis). Originally recorded Jan. 12, 2011. Originally broadcast March 8, 2011.