A sweet singer. Right away on the Ellington / Strayhorn "Daydream," the title track that opens this CD, Karrin Allyson sounds sooo warm and vulnerable. Gary Burton’s vibes are masterfully deployed, with Allyson’s voice floating around them. She has that female jazz singer thing, that thing all the great female jazz singers have had: the ability to move emotions. She has good taste and self-confidence, and she doesn’t indulge in the pyrotechnics that pass for singing among mediocrities these days.
Allyson really sings these songs, trusting her material enough to play it straight and let the song carry the day. One may not think it’s easy to go wrong with material like "Daydream," "Like Someone in Love," and "My Foolish Heart," but it’s precisely their familiarity that tempts too many into trying new twists that all-too-often fall flat. Allyson resists that temptation.
That doesn’t mean she doesn’t take any chances. First she tries out a couple of Jobim numbers in passable Portuguese: "So Danco Samba" and "Corcovado (Quiet Nights)." The latter is enriched by Danny Embrey’s sensitive acoustic guitar and the atmospheric flute of Kim Park. Allyson really communicates the mournful longing and quiet intensity of "Corcovado," and to do it in Portuguese earns her special merit. Then it’s time to show off her chops on Lerner and Loewe’s "Show Me." She’s up to it, and, perhaps emboldened by her success, jumps into a medley of Monk tunes. Aided by Randy Brecker’s dead-on trumpet, she scats and then sings the melody line of "Straight No Chaser." That’s fine, but the lyrics attached to "Blue Monk" by Abbey Lincoln limp a little ("Monkery’s the blues you hear...") and sound a little too forced on the melody. Jon Hendrick’s words to "I Mean You" work much better, and Allyson’s singing brings out the wry humor of the melody as well.
"Everything Must Change" is fragile to the breaking point, with the usual acoustic guitar accompaniment and eerie bass work by Bob Bowman (joined by Randy Weinstein’s eerie harmonica if you don’t think a harmonica can sound eerie, check this out) to match the lyrical message of loss. Once we’re all fearfully meditating on the transience of existence, Allyson treats us to a capably scatted "Donna Lee" and then we’re out with the impassioned "I Can’t Get Nothin’ But the Blues" and "You Can’t Rush Spring." It would seem from the varied nature of this program that Karrin Allyson is shooting for wider recognition. It would also seem from her confident and versatile singing on this program that she deserves such recognition.
Complete personnel are: Karrin Allyson on vocals, percussion, and piano; Bob Bowman on bass; Danny Embrey on guitars; Kim Park on alto sax and flute; Rod Fleeman on guitar; Laura Caviani on piano; Todd Strait on drums, Paul Smith on piano; Randy Weinstein on harmonica; and special guests Gary Burton on vibes and Randy Brecker on flugelhorn and trumpet. No, this isn’t a large group or strange configuration; not everyone plays on all the tracks. Everyone is competent, and the whole presentation is fine.