On Saturday night I had my first chance to hear a live performance of Karrin Allyson and I'm happy that I made the effort and the 180 km round trip to do so. The other three members of this fine quartet were Ed Howard on bass, Todd Strait on drums, and Rod Freeman on guitar. The concert, in the comfortable Palazzo Gazzoli Auditorium, started off in a bossa nova vein with Allyson singing in a fluent Portuguese, and a good deal of the concert followed that direction, although there was also a Joni Mitchell song in the mix. My favorite of the evening was a lively vocal interpretation of Hank Mobley's "The Turnaround", enough so that, after the concert, to fill in a notable gap in my record collection, I bought Allyson's Footprints CD, which contains that number along with many other vocal interpretations of jazz instrumentals. I recommend it.
While Allyson's voice and delivery are completely her own, the slight raspiness in her voice on slow tunes and her sex-kittenish manner and delivery made me think of the late Eartha Kitt. It was a fitting end to the excellent winter season of Terni in Jazz. If you get a chance to hear Karrin Allyson in person, by all means, go!
From the 40's through the 70's, jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington were very much a part of the shared popular culture. Three female jazz singers, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn tended to monopolize media attention, despite the fact that there were many other great singers around. As specialized radio and the internet gained our attention, audiences were fragmented and channeled into ever more narrow categories, so that the only singers who gain wide recognition appear to be those who provide salacious videos and keep their names on the pages of gossip magazines and police blotters. Nevertheless, after the passing of the three great ladies of jazz, a remarkable number of first rate female jazz singers has emerged. None of them has arrived at a dominance of the category the way Ella or Sarah did, but instead we have an all-star team of a dozen or a score of really excellent singers, all of whom deserve wider audiences. Karrin Allyson is part of that imposing team.