[Dixielandjazz] Nicki Parrott interviewed - Hartford Courant, August 8, 2013
rsr at ringwald.com
Fri Aug 9 22:12:45 PDT 2013
Jazz's Nicki Parrott with Les Paul Trio at Hepburn Center
by Owen McNally
Hartford Courant, August 8, 2013
Bassist/vocalist Nicki Parrott, Australia's superb gift to the international jazz
world, celebrates the legacy of her friend and mentor, the legendary guitarist and
electronic inventor Les Paul, as she performs with Les Paul's Trio on Saturday, Aug.
10 at 8 p.m. at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, 300 Main St., Old Saybrook.
Parrott, who was the regular double bassist for 10 years at the late guitar virtuoso's
fabled Monday night jam sessions at Manhattan's Iridium jazz club, is joined by her
special guest, the venerable guitarist, Bucky Pizzarelli, one of Paul's longtime
friends and colleagues in string theory wizardry.
Parrott's trio collaborators, pianist John Colianni and guitarist Lou Pallo also
worked for many years for Paul, who, despite increasingly failing health towards
the end of his life, played his beloved Iridium gig almost right up until the day
he died at age 94 in 2009.
Together, the three often improvise from the Old Master's original arrangements,
bringing their own fresh interpretations and individual voices to bear on their old
At the Iridium sessions, members of today's tribute trio regularly backed a dazzling
variety of Paul's musical guests, ranging from celebrated jazzers to superstar rockers.
Just about anybody from Jose Feliciano to Paul McCartney and Slash might sit-in with
the iconic guitar designer, or just come by the Iridium to pay homage to the elder
statesman at his regularly packed-house Monday night jam sessions.
Parrott, a big-toned, hard-swinging bassist and an elegantly direct, cool yet effectively
emotive vocalist, admired Paul's insatiable passion for music, his constant technological
tinkering -- his Thomas Edison-like experimentation in perpetual pursuit of the perfect
sound, as well as his highly individualistic, maybe even a bit idiosyncratic sense
Parrott is forever grateful to her friend and teacher for all she learned from him
about the music business; and, most especially, for the pivotal role he had, in his
own original way, of inspiring her to take up singing as a complementary skill to
her bass playing.
"I was on stage with Les," Parrott recalls in a phone conversation from her home
in Brookfield, "and was playing my bass solo, and he stopped me in the middle of
it and said, 'Is that all you're going to do? Just stand there and play the bass?'
He asked me, 'Can you sing?' And I said, 'Sure, why not?'"
"I hadn't sung in public before," she continues, "but singing was something that
I had always been interested in. I always listened to vocalists since I started out
in jazz as a teenager back in Australia. So all of that was sort of in my subconscious…the
kind of sound and style I liked vocally.
"So from then on after that night," she continues, "I just kind of worked singing
in organically. And now I sing all the time on my gigs and love it, and have done
12 records for the Japanese label Venus, all vocals," she says, recalling that first
baby step her mentor made her take that Monday night at the Iridium.
Born in Newcastle, Australia, Parrott started out at age 4 on piano, followed by
flute, switching to bass at age 15 in order to play in her older, saxophone-playing
sister Lisa's band.
Later at a jazz camp in Sydney, Nicki and a group of camper friends, who had been
focusing on classical music, fell madly in love with jazz. By 16, she was playing
in pubs in Newcastle, digging recordings of classic modern jazz bassists like Oscar
Pettiford and Paul Chambers.
After high school, she studied jazz at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music
in Sydney. Thanks to funding from an Arts Council Award, she traveled to New York
City in 1994 to study with bassist Rufus Reid. Her bass teachers subsequently included
Ray Brown and John Clayton. Her ears were also wide open to the sounds of Eddie Gomez,
Ron Carter and Dave Holland.
Besides her acclaimed albums on Venus Records, with a new release scheduled for the
fall, Parrott regularly tours throughout Europe, has a devoted fan base in Japan
and has performed at numerous major festivals, including the Newport Jazz Festival
and the Litchfield Jazz Festival.
Tickets for Old Saybrook concert: $35. Information:
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