Reviews of Alexis Parsons




Sirens of Today

All these songs of love have their anchor in the paradoxical world reflected by Alexis Parsons’ self-titled series of tomes on the theme of conflicted, difficult arrangements (Self Release; 40:35 ★★★★). 

Accompanied by pianist Frank Kimbrough, the bloom’s off as Parsons delivers an unmannered “The Winter Of My Discontent,” followed by a wistful look back with “Hello Young Lovers,” only to be fol- lowed up by a rare, upbeat swinger with “Just Squeeze Me.” The mood is melancholic, as the more seasoned Parsons’ breathy, desultory delivery reminds us that love is not a game to be entered into lightly. 

By John Ephland
March 2012
DownBeat Magazine

One of the Finest Vocalists Around

ALEXIS PARSONS. Remember that name and while you're at it either download her inimitably stylish songs or buy the CD now available - a CD suitably and simply titled Alexis Parsons. Here is a singer who is so gifted a vocalist that she doesn't need big back up sounds to measure her impact on us. Her series of eight songs are simply accompanied by the piano - and a gifted pianist she has selected in Frank Kimbrough. 

Not knowing about this amazing singer sends us to the resources about her back ground: 'With a musical background that ranges from Greek sacred music to opera and folk songs, Alexis Parsons has spent a lifetime developing a uniquely personal vocal style and fiercely independent career. For the past two decades, Alexis has led a variety of small groups showcasing her distinctive interpretations of the standard and not-so-standard songs of the jazz canon. As a bandleader, she has shown exceptional skill and a discerning ear in selecting accompanists. Her trios have included pianists Lynn Arriale, David Berkman and Arturo O'Farrill, among others. Manning the bass have been top call performers such as Sean Smith, Scott Colley and Drew Gress. And behind the drums, Matt Wilson, Willard Dyson and Jimmy Madison have provided swinging and sensitive grooves. She earned a bachelor's degree in vocal performance from the Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with Nancy Marano and Anne-Marie Moss and received a Helena Rubinstein Foundation scholarship. She also continues deepening her musical skills today by studying with vocalists Jay Clayton, Sheila Jordan, Rhiannon and Mark Murphy. A woman with a world of life experience and an uncommon pedigree (who else in the jazz world has performed rock, folk, gospel, opera, Greek and Arabic music professionally?) Alexis has a simple philosophy about music and life. "For me, it's always about breaking down the walls, finding new ways to express myself, because I can never do the same things, the same way, over and over. I want to be able to follow this journey wherever it takes me." 

Some credentials there, but none of that background material prepares the listener for the degree of skillful communication of the songs in this collection. Parsons vocal range could, I suppose, be technically placed in the mezzo-soprano category, but somehow labeling her as anything but unique seems redundant. The core of her voice is rich velvet in texture but she is able to ascend and descend the scale with equal ease in either direction. Her classical training is at all times evident in the way she focuses her tone and paces her breathing, but she is so very at home with the jazz idiom that emphasizing her training is another stopgap in trying to figure out just how she accomplishes the beauty of her singing and the deep conviction of her communication of the lyrics. 

Eight songs are here - The Winter of my Discontent', 'Hello Young Lovers', 'Just Squeeze Me' (the only up tune on the series), a sublime 'Lazy Afternoon', 'Only Trust Your Heart', a very poignant and likely meaningful 'She', and 'You Must Believe in Spring'. Once you've heard how Alexis Parsons sculpts these melodies it will be difficult to encounter anyone who can surpass this experience. She is very much on her way up!

Grady Harp, September 11
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A fiercely independent and dynamic vocalist Alexis Parsons will grab your attention immediately! There are a million unheard voices in the naked city and Alexis Parson's is but one. Independent artists much like independent jazz journalists are drawn to this most unforgiven line of work by passion while the understanding or even caring about the business side of the equation comes later if at all.

It is passion that drives Parsons. Passion that ranges from the experience of singing Greek sacred music to Opera to the seemingly musical sweet spot she finds herself at with this self titled release.

With the self titled "Alexis Parsons" she puts everything on the line with a piano and voice recording that would leave the less experienced artist fully exposed and ripe for a potentially critical cyber autopsy. Instead, Parsons displays tremendous jazz sensibilities with her captivating alto voice and she reaches past the title of singer to the level of story teller with such classics as "Hello Young Lovers" and "You Must Believe In Spring." Pianist Frank Kimbrough's accompaniment is thoughtful and fills just the right amount of space to make this a true musical partnership more so than a vocal "standards" recording. "Lazy Afternoon" is delivered in what some may hear as an autobiographical approach full of longing and despair that one could have only experienced first hand and thus explain how these feelings are transferred so effortlessly.

There is a unique, wistful melancholy that permeates this recording of stories of what might have been. A real and obvious connection is made between Parsons and these tunes to create a magical rise and fall of emotion. An emotional ebb and flow that fully exposes Parsons many artistic gifts and with no reservations.

Alexis Parsons and Frank Kimbrough make a delightful duo. The perfect trio accompaniment may be a crisp fall day, rich coffee and a warm blanket. There may be more technically proficient singers on the scene today but none more artistic as Parsons does more than sing the words, she makes the music.

Alexis Parsons intrigues me. A vocal enigma that leaves one longing for more.

By Brent Black
September 19, 2011
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Chicago-born/New York-bred vocalist Alexis Parsons has often worked with trios, but pares down the instrumental backing for this self-titled release. Alexis Parsons presents eight numbers that pair the singer with piano ace Frank Kimbrough, whose classy, top-shelf accompaniment, combined with Parsons' lovely and occasionally languorous vocals, bring a pleasant, sleepy quality to this music. A-list material from the likes of Rodgers and Hammerstein (”Hello Young Lovers”), Benny Carter and Sammy Cahn (”Only Trust Your Heart”), and Michel LeGrand and the Bergman's (”You Must Believe In Spring”), demonstrates good taste in the programming department, and Parsons treats each number with the respect it deserves. Six of the eight pieces are slow-drifting numbers that bloom under the care of Kimbrough and Parsons, but the two selections that stand apart from the rest operate in different rhythmic arenas. “Just Squeeze Me” has the requisite amount of vocal sauciness, without ever tipping the balance with overly coquettish behavior, and Kimbrough has a good time, as he shows that he can play the role of the swinging barroom pianist as well as anybody. The other number that's a departure-of-sorts is the oft-covered “Only Trust Your Heart.” Kimbrough sets this song adrift with steady piano work that screams for some bossa nova drum backing, but this duo does just fine without it.

The remaining six tracks are glacial and graceful, and they largely succeed due to this pair's willingness to slowly draw out the flavors in each one. While Parsons is occasionally a tad over-dramatic (”The Winter Of My Discontent'), she touches on the right emotional frequencies more often than not, and Kimbrough provides harmonic cushioning that's refined and riveting in its beauty. While the program leans heavily on standards, Parsons looks beyond the jazz borders with “She,” from Secret Life (Island, 1995)--Marianne Faithfull's collaboration with composer Angelo Badalamenti. While the source for this song is dissimilar from the rest, the execution of the number makes it feel right at home.

Album highlights, like the icy-turned-impressionistic “Lazy Afternoon” and album-closing “You Must Believe In Spring,” tend to highlight Parsons' ability to slowly parcel out a melody in her own inimitable way, but she deserves as much credit for her storytelling abilities as she does for her singing. She inhabits these songs as if they represent her very being, making Alexis Parsons an alluring listen from start to finish.

By Dan Bilawsky
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ニューヨークで活動しているシンガー、アレクシズ・パーソンズとピアニスト、フランク・キンブローとのデュオ・アルバム。スタンダードを中心に取り上げ、アルト・ボイスで魅了する。シーラ・ジョーダンを敬愛しているとのことだが、クラシックの影響を感じさせる歌い口だ。”Lazy Afternoon ”や”You Must Believe In Spring”などバラードでのエモーショナルな表現はすばらしい。キンブローのピアノがピタッと寄り添い深みのあるサウンドを聴かせてくれる。会心作。

English Translation:

Alexis Parsons is taken up focusing on a standard and charmed in her alto voice.  Although she respects Sheila Jordan, I feel classic influence on her singing. An emotional expression with ballads, such as "Lazy Afternoon" and "You Must Believe In Spring", is wonderful. The piano of Frank Kimbrough nestles up to her. It is a deep sound. Excellent work. 

By Shigeyo Hyodo
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Born in Chicago, raised in New York City, singer Alexis Parsons self titled album is a collection of romantic jazz ballads. Parsons warm and welcoming tone engages the listener with heartfelt renditions of songs like "The Winter of my Discontent", "Hello young lovers", "Just Squeeze me", Benny Carter "Only trust your heart" and Michel LeGrand "You must be believe in spring".

No drums or bass here, just the elegant piano melodies of Frank Kimbrough and Alexis Parsons. This format gives the album an intimate, romantic feel.

By Wilbur Sostre
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Alexis says (in the liner notes) that this CD essentially was twenty years in the making…. and it’s totally apparent on tunes like “Lazy Afternoon” that she spent a LONG time determining the placement of each consonant & vowel in her vocal presentation…. man, this is some ABSOLUTELY cool vocal jazz! The whole set is made much more intimate because the only accompaniment is Frank Kimbrough’s super-sensitive piano playing… especially on tracks like (my favorite of the 8 presented) “Just Squeeze Me“… the timing & synch between Frank’s keys and Alexis’ words is flawless. Just over 40 minutes of pure vocal pleasure for your ears to savor over the years to come. Alexis/Frank a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97.

By Rotcod Zzaj

Alexis Parsons (Ellick Records) has put together a set of great standards not often performed, from Wilder's "Winter of My Discontent" (which seems quite appropriate for the season and feeling in late January) to Legrand's "You Must Believe in Spring," with some gems in between. She interprets them all with a concentrated attention to the lyric content--something not everyone does as well--and puts emphasis on the drama of musical diction. She has a nice voice, more inclined to anticipate and delay than to embellish and scat, and Frank Kimbrough's accompaniment is at most times beautifully appropriate.

The songs, the voice-piano interaction, the heart-felt, world weariness Ms. Parsons projects--all combine to make this a good experience.

By Grego Applegate Edwards
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Alexis Parsons also finds inspiration in a program of standards, although she has made a point of choosing ones that are not the best known. But, on what I believe is Parsons’ debut, she has made a brave choice to perform these songs with just one accompanist, Frank Kimbrough on piano. So there are no drums or bass keeping time; Parsons and Kimbrough have to do that themselves. It gives both of them the freedom to be a little looser with the beat, a potential booby trap. They navigate it beautifully. Parsons has a sweetness in her voice that doesn’t get overdone in these arrangements, so it comes off as a winning quality. My first thought was that the performances lacked intensity, but I realized that that was just my reliance on a rhythm section. Once I got over myself, I realized just how emotionally committed these performances are. So, listen to this once, and then maybe once more once you know what to expect. Alexis Parsons will reward your extra attention here.

By Oliver di Place
February 2012
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Reviews of Hippin'

Alexis Parsons won some polls last year because she is very good. Connie Crothers wins polls and has for years because she is central to the music. Put the two together and let them freely interact without any song material except, towards the end, "Wild is the Wind."

Now of course Connie playing free is nothing new--but again of course it is nearly always extraordinary. "Free" vocals are not something you hear a great deal of. We musn't forget Abbey Lincoln and Patty Waters, two of the first, and there have been others, some excellent, that have followed, but not really a huge number of them.

After Ms. Parsons did her album of songs a while back (which I covered) I knew she was strong. But for a free date? Here we have the two and their Hippin' (New Artists 1047) doing just that. It turns out Alexis is very poised, inventive and personally unique in this mode too.

If everything works well for a date like this, the people involved have to be very attuned to what they will do. That's most certainly so. Then what they do needs to have interest, trajectory, drama, and so forth. There never is any doubt with what Connie would do here, because she is a monster improviser-artist. And so that happens to be the case once again. And Alexis Parsons gives you the surprise of having very much her own way of getting free and out there.

This is a winner! Outside and thoughtful in excellent ways.

By Grego Applegate Edwards
February 2013
New York City Jazz Record

Vocalist Alexis Parsons is well seated in the jazz tradition. Her previous record was a set of wide-ranging takes on standards accompanied by pianist Frank Kimbrough. One can sense the influence of theatrical and art songs and perhaps even the phonetics of her Greek and Swedish heritage.

Her second recording is another duo with a pianist and her playing partner couldn’t be a better choice. Like Parsons, Connie Crothers has a unique way of extending the jazz language without abandoning it, often recalling romantic elegance of Chopin, Elgar or Schumann but with the punctuated underpinnings of her mentor Lennie Tristano. Together they have crafted a spirited and inventive record.

There is a throwback feeling to their duets at times; Parsons’ wordless vocals would not have been out of place alongside the avant-garde art songs of the ‘70s. But she’s able to go there and come back again.

She nicely borrows snatches of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” (from Porgy and Bess) in “Stranger” and the pair resolves the record with a wonderful take on “Wild is the Wind”, a song that already bears the fingerprints of Johnny Mathis, Nina Simone and David Bowie. But the two find their own way through it with Crothers’ simply elegant phrasing and the most vulnerable vocals Parsons delivers in the set, focusing on the poetry of the words and almost whispering the melody.

Singer-with-piano-accompaniment isn’t often a pairing of equals, but Parsons and Crothers approach it as a couple of instrumentalists, moving in and out of themes, playing together and apart with ease. Hippin’ is a fresh setting of jazz classicism.

By Kurt Gottschalk
December 2012
New York City Jazz Record

Connie’s piano is solidly behind the spoken-word Alexis is doing, especially on pieces like “Exactly… what?”  If you’re not a spoken-word fan, you may not (exactly) “grok” what the duo is doing – but I can tell you, as an early proponent of spoken-word, that on this tune, Alexis rolls all the way from free-form to great blues form, & projects her power all the way!  It’s the title cut, “Hippin’“, that floats my boat in finest form, though… similar, in fact, to some sketches I’ve done before…. totally cool stream-of-consciousness event!  Connie’s piano is pure improv on this one.  I give Alexis & Connie a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who demand something different in their sonic adventures.  “EQ” (energy quotient) is 4.97.

By  Rotcod Zzaj
July 2014
Improvijazzation Nation