A long-awaited collaboration between GRAMMY-nominated vocalist Gretchen Parlato and acclaimed guitarist Lionel Loueke, Lean In tells the story of 20 years of connection, inspiration and friendship between two musical soulmates.
Reflecting on the great musical duos of our time and what it is that makes them essential, it would seem plausible that there would be at least a short list of common foundational factors necessary for success. For eminent artists, vocalist-arranger Gretchen Parlato and guitarist-vocalist Lionel Loueke, their formula is anchored in what could initially seem to be contrasting components —intrinsic rootedness paired with freedom, spontaneity, and impulse. The development of an earthy connection lays the groundwork for the confidence and trust required for experimentation and ascension. Of their affecting, palpable synergy, Loueke has endearingly coined the term “Musical Soul Mate.”
“It’s somebody who finishes your musical sentences, so to speak,” says Parlato. “We are challenging each other at the same time,” adds Loueke. “I just go wherever she is and vice versa. So, there’s no comfort zone. We get into the Unknown Zone.”
However, it is the uncharted territory that Parlato and Loueke would have to traverse off the bandstand that has produced their first formal duo recording project. Conceptualized, written, and recorded while in the grips of a global pandemic, Lean In bears the various loads of the last three years: a worldwide public health crisis, the traumatic losses of black life, police brutality, devastating wildfires across the world, an economic recession, a tense election punctuated by insurrection of the nation’s capital, and a myriad of civil and human rights hanging in the balance.
Lean In is an offering conceived through the lens of two friends and collaborators who were decidedly vulnerable about an unforeseeable journey that would challenge all of us, both individually and collectively, in unprecedented ways. The result is a palpably soul-stirring set that fully captures the charisma and ingenuity of deeply feeling artists and the perspectives that developed during the most trying of times. Now labelmates, and exactly 20 years after each of their moves to New York City, Parlato and Loueke created the album fans of their live sets have been anticipating for some time.
As with all of life, the meaning in our work, our thoughts and ideas can and do shift with time and perspective. With Lean In, Loueke and Parlato celebrate, contemplate, mourn, and rejoice the events of their 20 year journey as friends and collaborators who remain in awe of one another, through the tenets of their message, their playfulness, their enchanting sound, and rhythmic complexity laced with wit and dexterity — imbuing the songs with a timeless relevance for all who listen for years to come.