Jacelyn Parry – In Quiet Tones (2013)

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Jacelyn Parry’s new album deftly reflects a life’s history that begins in Malaysia, continues through Singapore and Australia before settling now in Rome. In Quiet Tones has a similar worldliness, and a similar sense of adventure.

The album-opening “Flown,” for instance, ambles by like a trickling stream, with a close, confidential vocal to go with its ever-involving polyrhythmic cadence from Cesare Pastanella. Parry’s expanded band lineup here features soprano saxophonist Roberto Ottaviano, with this darkly intriguing subtext; and guitarist Nando di Modugno, who adds a series of inspiring Pat Metheny-esque retorts. Parry traces her way through “Flown” with directness and confidence, setting the stage for a soaring conclusion, and perhaps the perfect – that is to say, perfectly complex – opening cut for this project.

In Quiet Tones follows her self-produced debut East to West, which included “Lin Fei” – a featured track at Paris’ European Spiritual Film Festival. Talk about East to West: Parry has also worked with multi-platinum Grammy winner Ken Lewis, including a stint assisting the sound engineer on his work with Kayne West’s album College Dropout.

In keeping, Parry brings a finely tuned, endlessly inventive approach to every element of this album, which arrives with a polished sense of purpose. She’ll use “A Passageway I Find,” with its propulsive rhythm from Mimmo Campanale, as a broader opportunity to improvise within her lyric. That means encircling Ottaviano’s sax, sometimes leading and sometimes amplifying – but yet remaining always in complete command. Di Modugno’s riffy additions only bolster this tune’s delicately attenuated sense of romantic joy. Then Parry will downshift into “Playing Little Games with Me,” which boasts a smoky sensuousness somewhere between Nancy Wilson and Norah Jones. The tune is built on an insistent figure from di Modugno, and counterbalanced by a garrulous turn from Ottaviano. Parry coos and whispers, sounding at once lost in love-lorn reverie and somehow desperately sad on the song – which will be featured in the 2013 international film “Something Good.” Elsewhere, “Awake in that Space” delves into a more spacious romanticism, with perhaps Parry’s prettiest vocal.

“Coming Undone,” powered by a loping bass line from Guiseppe Bassi, couldn’t drip with more come-hither flirtatiousness. The mystery-filled title track, again framed by Bassi’s sensitive work, begins with a moment of crepuscular, angular beauty – perhaps the most complete reflection of Parry’s personal mixture of Eastern and Western influences – before eventually achieving a stirring vista. Her lyric boasts all of the abstract connectivity of a tone poem, even as di Modugno explores his own complex and billowing tangle of emotions.

A ruminative figure from di Modugno then introduces “Deep is the Night,” a tune whose twilit mystery perfectly matches its title. Ottaviano’s sax, lonesome and somehow unyielding, opens the door for a searching narrative from Parry. “Secret Change” explores even further into Parry’s whispered entreaties, finding heart-opening revelations even as her principal foils on sax and guitar add impressionistic splashes of dark-blue colors.

Parry plays piano, as well, and her sun-drenched signature on “We’ll Be Together” is expertly doubled by Ottaviano, while Parry shifts gears into a persistently hopeful approach. Di Modugno’s undulating lines on “You Gave Me a Song,” meanwhile, add a lilting wit to Parry’s unabashedly love struck lyric, while Pastanella’s insistent but never too busy percussive additions brilliantly echo Parry’s sense of unquenchable, brand-new passion. She closes with “This Little Love,” which works at first as a showcase for di Modugno’s explorative figures. Delving into the darkest whispers of her range, however, Parry quickly retakes center stage – offering a final winning example of her deeply personal, closely conferred approach. Sounding something like an adult lullaby, it couldn’t be a more perfect ending to an album titled In Quiet Tones.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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