Gretchen Parlato breathes music. She inhales and exhales a life she was born into, grew up with and continues to explore as a jazz vocalist who has made her presence known among the genre’s elite.

With a new album expected to be released this spring, Parlato and her band will unveil many of its tracks during a live performance at the Olin Arts Center on the Bates College campus on Thursday, Feb. 10.

“I definitely want to do a lot from the new album,” said Parlato during a recent telephone interview from her home in Manhattan.

“In a Dream,” Parlato’s first album released on the Obliqsound label in 2009, — which includes music written by Herbie Hancock, Duke Ellington and Stevie Wonder — received high praise for its unique progressive jazz sound.

Parlato’s upcoming album, “The Lost and Found,” also on Obliqsound, continues to blend classic instrumental songs like “JuJu,” by Wayne Shorter, and “Blue in Green,” by Mile Davis, with her original lyrics. It also includes Parlato’s own musical compositions heavily influenced by her early fascination with Bossa Nova rhythms and cool jazz lilts.

“I think of vocals as a way to express what I’m thinking or feeling,” said Parlato. “Sometimes that’s with words, sometimes it’s with sounds or tones.”

Parlato often plays her voice as an instrumentalist and performs as one member of a quartet that includes Taylor Eigsti on piano, Alan Hampton on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums. The unspoken conversation between musicians during a jazz combo performance gives Parlato a freedom to wander expressively or to step back and admire her fellow artists.

Parlato said she often gets lost in her music while performing, but tries to be aware of her audiences.

“Sometimes I’m communicating directly with the audience,” Parlato said. “But it’s true that sometimes I seem to go into another world. But I also think it’s OK if the audience goes there with me.”

What sets Parlato apart from the crowd is her deliberate understatement and yin-yang tension of restrained vocal abandonment. She has a voice that you lean your ear into. She has a style that, while relaxing, requires attention to detail.

“I learned that intensity doesn’t equal volume,” Parlato said.

And she has learned from the best. She noted that everyone in her family is an artist of some kind. Her family tree has ties to The Beatles and Frank Zappa. She attended Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and later was admitted as the first vocalist to the Thelonious Monk Institute for Jazz.

“Art was just something that was always around me,” said Parlato. “I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family where it was just part of life.”

The Monk Institute gave Parlato the sterling credentials to open doors for her in New York, where she continues to live a life surrounded by musicians and other artists. Between tours, both Stateside and abroad, she performs in local clubs and as guest vocalist for artists such as Kenny Barron and Terence Blanchard.

Mostly, Parlato gets lost in her music and finds herself singing.

Go and do

WHAT: Gretchen Parlato concert

WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 10

WHERE: Olin Arts Center at Bates College, 75 Russell St., Lewiston

TICKETS: $12, $6 for seniors, children and students. Available at or call 786-6135.

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