Tillery combines the talents of three of today’s best singer-songwriters: Becca Stevens, Rebecca Martin, and Gretchen Parlato. Their exquisite songs defy easy categorization; maybe that’s why I like them so much. Their first album is one of my favorite recordings of 2016. (You can sample and/or buy it at iTunes by clicking on the album cover above.) Here’s my full review, which appeared in more abbreviated form in the October DownBeat.
Larrecca Music 111
The first album by Tillery, the confederation of three of today’s most interesting jazz vocalists – Becca Stevens, Gretchen Parlato and Rebecca Martin, who began singing together in 2010 – is finally here, and it was worth the wait. Although all three possess jazz technique to burn, in Tillery they apply their seamless, sometimes ethereal vocal blend to genre-defying folk/pop songs that cover a range of harmony singing styles, from the traditional (simple and starkly beautiful), to the post-modern (challenging chromatic harmonies and rhythmic effervescence). Throughout this jewel of an album, their music has a raw, wild beauty to it.
It begins with a stunning, alt-folkish version of Prince’s “Take Me With U,” sung in chaste three-part harmony. The effect is like a heavenly choir – the aural equivalent of Botticelli’s “Three Graces” – distilling Prince’s lust-filled R&B anthem into something more innocent, accompanied only by ukulele and guitar. The result is somehow even more compelling for its virginal quality. Two other well-chosen covers are Father John Misty’s “O How I Long To Feel Your Arms Around Me” and The Jacksons’ “Push Me Away.” Throughout, the trio accompany themselves sparely with guitar, ukulele, charango (an Andean mandolin-like instrument) and hand percussion, occasionally augmented by the acoustic bass of Larry Grenadier (Martin’s husband), Pete Rende’s keyboards, and Mark Guiliana’s drums.
Each singer brings some of her best songs to the table. Martin’s haunting “God Is In The Details,” the lyrics of which suggest the interior dialogue of a woman learning to be self-sufficient sans partner, could have been a track on an early Joni Mitchell album. Parlato contributes two fine examples of her precise, fervently hypnotic, rhythmic vocals, “Magnus” and “I Want to Fly So Free.” And there are breathtaking versions of Stevens’ passionate “I Asked” and Martin’s poignant “To Up and Go.” The album ends with Stevens’ gorgeous tour de force, “Tillery,” for which the group is named, an austere meditation on the natural world’s beauty and evanescence (based on a poem by Jane Tyson Clement).
Individually, Stevens, Parlato and Martin are powerful artists with unique visions. Together they have created something transcendental.
Tillery: Take Me With U; O I Long to Feel Your Arms Around Me; No More; Magnus; God Is In The Details; I Want To Fly So Free; Sweetheart; I Asked; To Up And Go; Push Me Away; Tillery
Personnel: Becca Stevens: vocals, guitars, ukulele, charango, hand percussion; Rebecca Martin: vocals, guitar, hand percussion; Gretchen Parlato: vocals, charango, hand percussion; Pete Rende: piano, keyboards; Larry Grenadier, acoustic bass; Mark Guiliana, drums, percussion
Ordering Details: iTunes and tillery.bandcamp.com