Today marks the long-awaited release of Karrin Allyson's latest CD, Wild For You
. For most jazz lovers this will be the first opportunity to hear this new music, but several lucky fans here in Los Angeles were lucky enough to get a preview of her new material during her engagement at Catalina Bar & Grill in late May. Fronting a quintet consisting mainly of her long term bandmates, Ms. Allyson captivated the crowd with an enchanting mix of jazz standards, Brazilian ballads and songs from 1970s singer-songwriters featured on her new album.
There is something ironic about the song selection on Wild For You
; while there seems to be a current vogue of singers associated with rock and popular music of the 1970s performing jazz standards, the young but established jazz artist Karin Allyson turns this dynamic on its head by recording songs by the likes of Elton John, Melissa Manchester, James Taylor and others. The night I saw her at Catalina, she began the evening, as she does her new album, with her clever arrangement of Joni Mitchell' s "All I Want." Of course, Joni is really the perfect artist to mediate between the worlds of jazz and pop as her songs tend to veer between those two poles to begin with. Here, guitarist Danny Emberey really connected the dots between this early-ish (Blue
) Mitchell composition and her later more overtly jazz inflected tunes with a cool approach to the chords and breaks that combined his own personal acoustic/electric sensibility with some echoes of Pat Metheney's playing with Mitchell and Larry Carlton's work with Steely Dan.
Allyson continued in this vein for the next few numbers, giving nuanced readings of Melissa Manchester's "I Got Eyes" and Jimmy Webb-via-Linda Rondstat's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress." Allyson's vocal approach is almost deceptively simple. She doesn't bellow, she doesn't coo but she grabs your attention and seduces you too. In some ways she is one of those singers that seemingly talks her way through a lyric, but there is also a high level of artifice there as well.
The balance of the set drew from her most recent albums Ballads
, In Blue
and From Paris to Rio
. Backed for most of the evening by a local pianist, Allyson took the piano chair and displayed her considerable talents for the last few numbers. For those in the crowd familiar with Wild For You
, the evening really reinforced the quality of the album. Those who weren't, well, I'm sure that they are glad that June 8th is here at last.