What a marvelously subtle and understated jazz singer! She reminds me most of Shirley Horn, a singer who was known for her sophisticated approach to ballad singing, which brought an air of mystery and suspense to the most familiar standards. Karrin Allyson has that gift as well, though she applies it more to mid-tempo numbers and bossa nova.
Allyson’s most recent CD Many a New Day, is an all Rodgers & Hammerstein affair, but the show at Birdland I attended only featured two songs from the album, the opener “Happy Talk” and “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught.” In this, she’s more in the mode of a jazz performer who happens to be in a cabaret venue, like, say, Herb Alpert, than a full-on cabaret artist like Michael Feinstein, who has been known to construct an entire show around one composer or team. Allyson even mentions that every show at Birdland will feature a different songlist. This is more an observation than a criticism, however: I enjoy going to see a Herb Alpert (or Karrin Allyson) show every bit as much as I enjoy one of Feinstein’s.
Indeed this evening’s high point came in a clutch of bossa nova numbers. Allyson clearly has an affinity and feel for it; I’m think it’s the form’s innate complexity and ambivalence that appeals to her, since she applies these qualities to almost everything she performs, from blues to bop to showtunes. She also did a handful of her own compositions which were able to hold their own next to Rodgers, Jobim and Mose Allison, no small feat. Recommended.
For tickets, click here.
To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.blog.