Hot Tracks: New albums by jazz bassist Nicki Parrott and classical pianist Yekwon Sunwoo

Singer-bassist Nicki Parrott takes on the discography of the much-loved pianist-singer Blossom Dearie in this album. Dearie, with her almost-squeaky Betty Boop voice, dry self-awareness and ever-cool tonal pitch, was hipster before the coinage was debased in the Instagram age. After all, one of her signature tunes was the snarky Dave Frishberg-Bob Dorough number, I'm Hip.

Australia-born Parrott, possessed of a pillowy, mellow mezzo voice and a bouncy sense of swing, tackles this prickly tune with the requisite ironic detachment, and updates Frishberg's lyrics cheekily for the social media age: "I don't blog, but think I can/Twittering here Snapchatting there/I'm Facebook friends with the Kardash-ians I'm so hip."

The other number that is the acid cool test is Peel Me A Grape, where Parrott cannily wraps a come-hither girlish croon around steely womanly demand and proffers an entirely apt quotation from Gershwin's Summertime on her bass in mid-song.

This mix of easy delivery and smart musicianship defines this entirely charming album, whose programme ranges from the candy pop ballad of I Wish You Love to the comedy cheese of Rhode Island Is Famous For You.

With the musicianship of pianist Chris Grasso, vibraphonist Chuck Redd and drummer Lenny Robinson, who all seem in sync with Parrott's fleet, stylish strut, Dear Blossom manages the tightrope act of paying tribute without slavishness.

Ong Sor Fern

  • JAZZ


    Nicki Parrott

    Arbors Records

    4/5 stars

In June this year, 28-year-old Yekwon Sunwoo became the first Korean pianist to win first prize at the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition held in Fort Worth, Texas. This winner's recital disc captures "live" some of his key solo performances in three rounds of competition.



    Yekwon Sunwoo, Piano

    Decca 4815527

    4.5/5 stars

Included is the world premiere recording of Canadian pianist-composer Marc-Andre Hamelin's Toccata On L'Homme Arme, the specially commissioned set-piece for this competition. It is a no-holds-barred fantasy on a mediaeval French song that literally sweeps the entire keyboard and Sunwoo nails it with stunning aplomb.

His musicality is also displayed in Haydn's Sonata No. 58 In C Major and Liszt's transcription of Schubert's lied Litanei (Am Tage Aller Seelen), pieces which may be considered anti-virtuosic for their lack of outright showiness. However, these are a foil for the gilded sheen applied to Percy Grainger's Ramble On Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier Final Duet, which demands the most delicate of touches and fine sense of balance in revealing the harmonies.

The through-and-through showpieces come in Ravel's La Valse and Rachmaninov's Second Sonata (Op. 36, the shorter 1931 edition), which Sunwoo delivers like any Cliburn laureate should. An hour's worth of piano gold seems like short measure, but here is a worthy musical calling card.

Chang Tou Liang

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2017, with the headline Hot Tracks: New albums by jazz bassist Nicki Parrott and classical pianist Yekwon Sunwoo. Subscribe