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ERIE LIFE MAGAZINE
September 9. 2009 by Bob Protzman
Karrin Allyson: “By Request: The Best of Karrin Allyson’’ (Concord) ****
The best of Karrin Allyson also is arguably the very best in today’s vocal jazz.
Thrice nominated for a Grammy as Best Jazz Vocalist, and absolutely robbed of winning one (“Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane’’), two or possibly all three, Ms. Allyson is, in a word, a superb all-around vocalist. She moves and excites at almost every turn, something few singers do no matter how mightily they try.
That’s the crux of the matter; too many singers force the issue, while Allyson’s greatest attribute is her naturalness. She is real, compared with dozens of ersatz singers with their “jazz’’ affectations.
Allyson’s versatility, and certainly musicianship, also separates her from an over-crowded field of would-be jazz singers (it seems that being a woman and having a voice are the sole qualifications for being a “jazz singer’’ these days).
The 13 tracks here attest to the wide range of material Allyson is willing and able to sing, and the fresh approach she and her musicians (unanimously outstanding) always take with jazz classics, old and newer pop standards, and songs from France and Brazil (sung in—to untrained ears, at least—fluent French and Portuguese).
Her voice and style are distinctive and adaptable, so that both seem just right for whatever song she is singing.
On “What’s New?’’, there’s a slight tremble of sadness; she’s playful, even silly for “O Pato (The Duck),’’ exudes sheer joy at a breath taking tempo on “Cherokee’’ and an only slightly slower “Nature Boy,’’ and revels in uninhibited naughtiness on the double entendre lyrics of “Sweet Home Cookin’ Man,’’ a tune she wrote.
Finally, you say you hate “scatting’’ (wordless singing)? Check out Allyson—one of the most accomplished and sophisticated around—and you might change your mind.
If Allyson maintains her current creative level for her next 12 recordings and beyond, she could join the pantheon of jazz vocal greats: Billie, Ella, Sarah, Carmen, et al.