To my mind, a really great jazz festival should give you a lot more than terminal heartburn and a farmer’s tan; it should give you the biggest picture possible of what this genre is all about. If the second night of the inaugural Bridge Jazz Festival is any indication, we may be seeing the first blooms of a really great jazz festival! While Night One at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall featured some of the best concert jazz around, Night Two at the College of Saint Rose’s Massry Center for the Arts would show that jazz could have a beautiful intimacy while maintaining (to steal from the late Leonard Nimoy’s signature character) infinite diversity in infinite combinations.
Gretchen Parlato and Alan Hampton have been developing their own sense of intimacy for a number of years now, with the vocalist and the multi-instrumentalist writing for – and singing on – each other’s projects. Recently, they decided to see what they could create when they didn’t have other musicians to make room for, either onstage or in the mix. As such, it was just Hampton with his various axes (including ukulele, which he played on his opening composition “Every Living Part”), Parlato with a few shakers, and a joint harmonic that was as gorgeous as it was unique that led us into this relatively early evening. Hampton’s vocal style won’t ever be confused with Kurt Elling; he’s more like Paul Simon with a little more steel. Between that and his seemingly infinite range, he’s a perfect vocal partner for Parlato, who almost always stays within her sultry alto.