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Birds In Flight

Kat Parra

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Album Review

Over the years, Latin jazz has been dominated by instrumentalists. Think of Latin jazz' most celebrated figures, and most of the people who come to mind are instrumentalists (Dizzy Gillespie, Poncho Sanchez, Cal Tjader, and Pucho, among others). And even though many jazz vocalists have included Latin-influenced performances on their albums, it hasn't been their primary focus. Rarely have there been jazz vocalists who considered Latin rhythms a main ingredient instead of a side dish, but an exciting exception to that rule is Kat Parra, who shows considerable promise on her first solo album, Birds in Flight. Latin rhythms are not a mere afterthought for Parra; they are an integral part of her vocal jazz vision, which is best described as pan-Latin because she doesn't embrace any one Latin rhythm exclusively on Birds in Flight. Many times, people who use the term Latin jazz mean Afro-Cuban jazz, but while Afro-Cuban music is a major influence on Birds in Flight, it is hardly the album's only Latin influence; Parra also combines jazz with everything from Brazilian samba ("These Old Feelings") to Spanish flamenco ("Alfonsina y el Mar"). Parra blends Afro-Cuban and Brazilian elements on Jorge Bem's "Mais Que Nada," and "Kuando el Rey Nimrod" finds her putting a jazz spin on a 16th century Sephardic poem. This 51-minute CD, which was produced by trombonist Wayne Wallace, is not only memorable because it is a stylistic rollercoaster; it is also memorable because Parra brings an abundance of warmth and emotion to her performances. Birds in Flight is a consistently rewarding debut from the risk-taking Parra.

Biography

Born: 13 January 1962 in Detroit, MI

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

The San Jose, CA-based Kat Parra is a flexible and broad-minded jazz vocalist who has very strong Latin leanings but has also been affected by Middle Eastern, Arabic, and North African music. In many cases, the term Latin jazz has been used to describe Afro-Cuban jazz — and Afro-Cuban music has, in fact, been a major influence on Parra, who has cited the late Cuban salsa queen Celia Cruz as one of her idols. But Afro-Cuban music is not the only type of Latin music that has influenced Parra,...
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Birds In Flight, Kat Parra
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