Straight-ahead jazz vocalist Karrin Allyson came from Kansas City to the world at large, becoming as popular as any singer of her generation. These 12 selections plus one previously unissued track, done over a span of 11 recordings and 15 years, show why she has become likable, marketable, and admired within certain circles of the mainstream standard-bearers. She also writes a little, plays some piano, interprets others' lyrics to well-known standards, and tosses in a considerable amount of seductive Brazilian or French tunes done in their native language. Allyson's controlled voice never soars skyward or through wispy clouds, but her sensible style is one that easily attracts regular nightclubbers, as well as festival crowds who just want to hear good music professionally performed. Her sophistication through the years has grown considerably, but she has never been the cutesy singer who needed to grow up, and has remained as poised and polished as the first day she chose to sing for a living. This recording also displays a mix of the many collaborators she has worked with, including many of her friends from home. She's very comfortable with the blues, as the Bobby Timmons evergreen "Moanin'" displays, going from a scatted intro to the famous Jon Hendricks lyric. She uses two guitarists for the light samba take of "Night and Day," the perky "O Pato," and the convincing, heartfelt "Nature Boy." An accordion accompanies the waltz "Sous le Ceil de Paris," and she sings well in Portuguese on the happy, bouncy "A Felicidade." Working separately and together with the wonderful singer Nancy King, Duke Jordan's "Jordu" is turned into "Life Is a Groove" with Allyson's swinging lyrics, while her original "Sweet Home Cookin' Man" is a fan favorite about an imaginary sweetheart gourmet chef, with the modal piano of Paul Smith keeping the griddle sizzling. In retrospect, her version of the ballad "What's New?" is especially poignant and bittersweet to hear, considering that the late tenor saxophonist Bob Berg and pianist James Williams are backing her up. Both died far too young, making this statement a forever unanswered question. "Cherokee" is the most unusual arrangement, jamming the gears from idle neutral to furiously fast sixth gear at the drop of a flag like a drag race. Certainly there are those who would choose different tracks, but this is a very good overview of what Allyson has done in her relatively short career -- and there's much more to come.
By Request: The Best of Karrin Allyson Review
by Michael G. Nastos