There was something in her hands that was prayerful, especially as she tipped her head back, eyes closed, and just let her head rock side to side. Even before she sang a note, it was apparent that Gretchen Parlato would be worth every bit of the long line and the wait outside of Kilbourn Hall.
In a set of nine songs that lasted a good hour, Parlato proved that the voice is an instrument. At times, like during “Holding Back the Years,” her words cried away everyone’s sadness. When she sang “Juju,” there was a smoky French influence and words like “time” were more an exhale that melted into a slight “mmm” of a hum. And in “Alo Alo,” Parlato made sounds and tones and became part of the percussion, with each musician tapping on their instruments rather than playing them, in a sort of a Calypso jazz fusion.
Whether it was coming from Parlato’s performance or because it has been that long since “Breakfast in America” came out in 1979, tonight I heard a different side of Roger Hodgson, the still unmistakable voice of Supertramp, at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Hodgson didn’t talk much during his two hour, 22 song show, but when he did, it was in reference to writing song lyrics from deep within during times of personal challenges or struggles.
Hodgson was with a four-man band, and for “The Awakening,” Hodgson sang with the bass player and the winds player, and their well-blended voices offered a fresh insight into what the future may sound like. The harmonics of Supertramp was certainly one aspect of its playing that I enjoyed, so when Hodgson said he’d like to record the song someday, my vote would be yes.
Hodgson did not seem to disappoint the audience filling the Eastman Theatre, several of whom (including me) carried original albums with them. He opened with “The Long Way Home” and played many favorites, including “Breakfast in America,” “The Logical Song,” “Dreamer,” “It’s Raining Again,” and a dancing-in-the-aisles version of “Give a Little Bit.”
As Eastman is generally my venue for covering the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, I put up a big cheer when Hodgson said he might like to come back to perform here with the RPO (perhaps for “Fool’s Overture” or, better still, an orchestral version of “Death and a Zoo?”). Last year, Sarah McLachlan performed with the RPO at CMAC, so I can imagine a collaboration for them with Hodgson.
And with that, another day of this year’s Jazz Fest comes to a close. Tomorrow is already Thursday, and I’ll be out for Brad Turner (Montage) and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra (Xerox Auditorium), and more. Hope to see you there!