“Let the music absorb into you”: Karrin Allyson At the Vermont Jazz Center Concert Review Part 1

Here’s part of a concert review I wrote of the great jazz singer Karrin Allyson. Most of you know that music is one of my primary passions (I even combine music with team building) and I find it very helpful to learn to be an artist of life and work by tracking musical artists. I hope you find some inspiration this week in what I tracked.


The Show

“I think it’s important for players that want to embrace any music – you need to go hear it live a lot and be a sponge with it…just let it absorb in you. And it does take a while.” – Karrin Allyson (from All About Jazz interview)

What a pleasure to see the Vermont Jazz Center filled with people for the Karrin Allyson concert. There were a lot of new faces at this sold out show. Clearly Karrin has a strong following! The quartet took to the stage for two tight sets. Singing in English, French and Portuguese, Allyson sang bossas, ballads, swing standards, bop and pop songs all arranged in a way that was all her own. She mainly featured songs from her most recent six albums, although she occasionally dug deep into her catalog. Her first album was in 1992 (I Didn’t Know About You). When I listen to that album now, I hear that she ‘arrived’ fully formed. Thirteen albums and four Grammy Award nominations later she has continued that unique path that was first documented over twenty years ago.

At the break between sets Bill Ballard came up to me with a big smile on his face. “It’s all meat!” he said. I knew what he meant. From a musician perspective, there’s no fluff when she sings. Everything is done for a reason. She’s careful, in the best sense of the word – she takes great care with her art. She showed care in all aspects of a performance – song choice, pacing, instrumentation, flow of the evening and altered it as needed – a careful eye revealed her subtly exhorting the band to drive a little harder at very specific moments. She picked well when to stand and sing and when to play piano while singing. She has her own way and her own sound. She’s really in control and knows what she’s singing. She’s locked in; leaping large intervallic jumps freely maintaining that sweet sound.

She’s a serious student – she knows her stuff. There’s a deep knowledge of the music, a deep choice of songs, the obvious is avoided. She’s a craftsman with a respect for the material she works with. She blended emotion and control and had peak moments of a sense of vulnerability within her tonal quality.

And there’s also a sense of what Picasso praised as “strength in reserve”. There were brief moments of fluid, effortless scat but not overpowering chorus after chorus. And there was vocalese, but not of solos – which can get challenging for me as a listener – but of melodies, which is a fresh delight.

Stay tuned for more about the great Karrin Allyson next time!


See Karrin Allyson live in the following YouTube clips

Little Boat – Karrin Allyson
Karrin Allyson with Danny Embrey, guitar. John Goldsby, bass. Frank Chastenier, piano. Gregg Field, drums.

Moanin’ – Karrin Allyson

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