***** (5 Stars)
Kat Parra is the answer to the question: Who is the next great Latin female singer?"
Blessed with a gorgeous voice, whether speaking or singing, her articulation is clear, distinct and conveys her soulful feelings directly to the listener. Couple that with her orchestra, complete with strings, brass and percussion, and her program which encompasses Afro-Cuban, Salsa, Cha Cha, Samba, some with a Middle Easternflavoring-it is a winner." - Dick Bogle, The Skanner, Portland, OR
Vocalist Kat Parra's debut CD Birds in Flight has just been re-released on Patois Records, which has signed Parra to a two-record contract. The newly formed jazz label has been garnering positive attention from the music community due to two recent releases by Wayne Wallace: Dedication and The Reckless Search for Beauty. With Parra's insatiable curiosity for the exploration of world rhythms and Patois' vision of communicating across all musical borders, this makes for a perfect union. Kat Parra's music is the embodiment of what Patois Records is about - multi-lingual, adventurous and soulful," remarks Wayne Wallace, Patois Records' founder. Between live performance dates, Parra is also in pre- production with producer Wayne Wallace for her follow-up project to be recorded later this year for an early 2008 release.
Birds in Flight is an incredibly diverse collection of songs that showcases Parra's versatile vocal stylings as well as glittering arrangements by award-winning trombonist/arranger/ producer Wayne Wallace and pianist Murray Low. Parra's message throughout the CD is a personal one. Taking a spiritual, emotional and career-changing leap of faith, Parra left the security of a Silicon Valley corporate job to fully concentrate on her musical craft. With the support of an all-star cast of Northern California-based musicians, Parra is able to stretch the boundaries of the Latin Jazz idiom by blending instruments and rhythms from around the world. Parra's vocal excellence is the thread that holds the recording together throughout this timeless endeavor.
The disc opens with the infectious samba groove of the popular Brazilian song Mais Que Nada, featuring hip-hop vocals from Parra's son Pat Parra and an Afro-Cuban groove. Dame la Llave is another grooving number that features a masterful arrangement by John Calloway that highlights the string section and flute playing of Masaru Koga, as well as a high-flying solo from violinist Anthony Blea. The well-known standard, Softly as in a Morning Sunrise, is transformed here into a Danzn/Cha-cha in an intriguing arrangement by Wallace. The deeply movingAlfonsina y El Mar uses a more intimate group of musicians, featuring the poignant guitar-playing of Rick Vandivier as well as hauntingly beautiful vocals by Parra.
The title track, Birds in Flight, is a hard-grooving Salsa that was inspired by Parra's breakup with her husband at 23, and the eventual triumph of raising two sons on her own. This song was a 1999 prizewinner in the Latin Jazz category of the John Lennon Song writing Contest. Caravan receives a breathtaking treatment as Parra and Wallace highlight this tune's Middle-eastern influence with the addition of Michael Spiro on bat drums, Ravi Gutala on tablas, Katja Cooper on dumbek and Paul van Wageningen on drums. The touching leo de una Mujer con Sombrero, by Cuban composer Silvio Rodriguez, features gorgeous playing from flutist Masaru Koga and pianist Murray Low.
Parra has been making music all her life; in addition to singing she plays flute, guitar, and piano. Singing was initially something she didn't take that seriously because it came so naturally to her. After her divorce she decided to study voice at San Jose State University. Parra thought it would be easy. Boy was I in for a surprise!" Studying with Patti Cathcart (of Tuck & Patti fame) woke me up to an entirely new world where my voice was the messenger. Sing your truth,' Patti would tell me.... There are stories to tell, heartaches to share and love to spread. The power of music is a gift that I never want to take for granted."
Parra has performed extensively in the San Francisco Bay area, where she is based, and has also toured to New York City, Chile, and Cuba. Her work with the Santa Cruz, CA-based group Charanga Nueve found her opening for legends such as Celia Cruz, Los Van Van, Cubanismo, Las Perlas del Son, and Paulito FJ. She has also opened for Charlie Hunter, and Cold Blood with Lydia Pense, and performed in festivals such as the San Jos Jazz Festival, the Pacific Jazz Festival (Berkeley, CA), and the Festival de la Primavera (Santiago, Chile). In addition to the John Lennon Song writing Contest award, she has earned awards from the Columbia College Jazz Festival, Pacific Jazz Festival, Festival de la Uva, and Festival de la Primavera.
Along with the goal of producing a high standard of musical excellence, Patois Records is dedicated to sharing its knowledge and expertise with the community at large. Inclusive of this vision, Parra gives back to her community through music education in underprivileged schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. Patois Records is carving a niche in the airwaves, internet and retail stores as a unique and innovative label that embraces the global reaches of music. Birds in Flight is now available through RNLG/KOCH distribution.