Jazz CD Reviews
By Request: The Best of Karrin Allyson – Concord Jazz
Published on July 4, 2009
By Request: The Best of Karrin Allyson – Concord Jazz CJA-31459, 1 hour *****:
(Karrin Allyson, vocals & piano; band includes Bob Berg, Bruce Barth, John Patitucci, Paul Smith, Mulgrew Miller & others)
Vocalist Karrin Allyson has been a very important part of the Concord Jazz label. This greatest hits album is her 12th for the label, and isn’t by any means supposed to be her final career-summing-up compilation. The 13 tracks are songs which her fans have most requested at her live performances over the years. By the way, during her career so far Karrin has received three Grammy nominations.
Karrin is not your usual vocalist. Besides being an excellent pianist with a unique-sounding voice, she has moved beyond mainstream jazz in many of her albums. One area she has mined recently is Brazilian jazz. I can’t think of another American singer of Brazilian songs who sounds so appropriate – not just in her Portuguese delivery but in her wonderful samba-infused rhythms and feeling. She also does something I wish more singers would do in foreign-language songs: she mixes the original Portuguese lyrics with English translations so you get an idea of the tune’s meaning without having to read a translation (which usually isn’t furnished anymore anyway). She does the same with her French songs – there’s one of them in this collection plus two of the Brazilian. Karrin’s cohorts on the different tracks deserve praise here too – her backing is absolutely perfect on every tune.
I didn’t know there were lyrics to Ray Noble’s classic Cherokee; it’s a kick to hear Karrin singing them, and at a death-defying tempo too. And speaking of lyrics, the ones Jon Hendricks wrote for Bobby Timmons’ Moanin’ are sung here by Karrin, and they have that delightful humor shared by all of Hendricks’ clever lyrics to formerly strictly instrumental jazz tunes. On Duke Jordan’s classic Jordu, Karrin did the Jon Hendricks thing and created the lyrics herself while driving and listening to a version of the instrumental on a cassette in her car. She is joined by fellow vocalist Nancy King on this one, and it’s a gem. The last track on the disc is the only one not previously released. A Tadd Cameron composition, it was not included on one of her earlier albums due to difficulties getting rights to the new lyrics written by Chris Caswell. In the meantime the lyrics were cleared so the tune could be used on this album. I’m not especially excited about most jazz vocalists, but I’ve become a fan of Karrin Allyson.
TrackList: Night and Day, Moanin’, What’s New, O Pato (The Duck), Sous Le Ceil De Paris (Under Paris Skies), Jordu, Everything Must Change, A Felicidade, Sweet Home Cookin’ Man, Nature Boy, And So It Goes, Cherokee, Next Time Around (Soultrane).
– John Henry