Karrin Allyson: In Blue

[Concord CCD-2106-2]

Jim Merod
14 August2002

Vocalist Karrin Allyson is one of the truly gifted, swinging and (gracefully, thankfully) subtle female vocalists on the scene today and, since there are too few of such hip crooners, a new release by her is a cause to pay attention.

In Blue, the newest of Allyson's long list of Concord albums, continues the tradition of this attractive singer's generous grasp of beautiful and sometime difficult material. The theme of "blueness" is not new or unique, but Allyson's treatment of it is. You'll not easily find another singer who tackles Wes Montgomery's "West Coast Blues" and then absolutely nails its slippery, sinuous line.

Perhaps the jewel of the album's lucky thirteen offerings is the last, Matt Dennis's "Angel Eyes," a song that has been worked to the nub. What makes Karrin Allyson's version special is her vocal caress, as if the song was written with her in mind. But listen to the opening track, Bobby Timmons's "Moanin' " -- a song that saxophonist/composer Benny Golson goaded Timmons to write after he heard a fragment of it while the two men were in Art Blakey's band. Seldom has this seemingly ageless and inevitable song been given its appropriate down-and-dirty feeling. Here it has.

One of the arresting aspects of Allyson's vocal work is how thoroughly her interpretations are her own personal creations, revealing a sweetness and innocence of attack, feeling and sense even as they are taken up wholly by the essential lyrical and emotional significance of the song. That doubleness of enterprise and outcome does not reveal itself as a self-conscious effort to "be hip" nor does it deform Allyson's beautiful voice (and phrasing) to an awkward, mannered subordinate -- a vocal Rube Goldberg machine -- as we hear with lesser singers, laboring mistakenly in the antic tool shed of Betty Carter's baroque style.

Since the appearance of her 1999 From Paris To Rio album [Concord CCD-4865-2], I have considered Karrin Allyson to be one of the most impressive, and engaging, young vocalists now emerging to the front ranks. In Blue does nothing to diminish that evaluation. It reinforces this provocative young singer's firm grasp upon a high rung of the crowded ladder of commercial and professional success . . . success already assured for Allyson by an extraordinary legacy of albums that demonstrate artistic talent of the first order with rare, good taste and a degree of tenacity that should, in sum, escort her happily toward an ever more rewarding future . . . for her and for her growing legion of appreciative fans.