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Karrin Allyson: Has Jazz, Will Travel

By Published: August 18, 2009

AAJ: Jazz does that.

KA: It does.

AAJ: Out of all we have and my big thing is this country doesn't even know what it has.

KA: Yes.

Karrin AllysonAAJ: The rest of the world knows what we have and this country doesn't. It's the only original art form we have. Everything else is borrowed from Europe. And people that put jazz tags on things that aren't jazz.

KA: That's a drag. Well jazz festivals all over the world—quote, unquote jazz festivals all over the world—do that, too. They have R&B.

AAJ: So you call those music festivals, not jazz festivals. That's being honest about it.

KA: Exactly.

AAJ: Like the one in Rochester.

KA: That's a great festival.

AAJ: Well, their leading act last year was Jerry Lee Lewis.

KA: Oh, my.

AAJ: And they had the nerve to call it a "jazz festival"? Call it a music festival and you can incorporate any kind of music you want. That to me is dishonest

KA: Right. It's false advertising.

AAJ: And then it confuses people because there are a lot of people that really don't know what jazz is.

KA: Right. I feel like the more exposure people get to jazz, the more popular it's going to be. It seems like a no-brainer. It's just that whatever's shoved down people's throats, they're going to think that's the next best thing because it's advertisement. But jazz does not get the kind of publicity that it needs.

AAJ: And it's such "feel good" music.

KA: It is. That's exactly right. Because it involves. Blues, especially almost, because you're so involved in it, too. And you can witness people on stage, working things out together. You can witness democracy in action on the stage. Even though you have a leader, I feel like it's an open conversation that we're having. It's not just something you do by rote.

AAJ: I feel the same thing about lyrics. Lyrics are a conversation.

KA: Yes. And there's a conversation going on in jazz, too.

AAJ: That's what it's supposed to be. That's what the good ones are in any song and in any genre.

KA: That's right.

AAJ: Do you find any differences in the audiences between here and there?

KA: That's a question I get asked a lot. And I don't know how to answer it. Well, for example, in Japan. My experience has been—first of all, it is very popular there and they do value it and that's great. When they're in the act of listening, they are really polite and they don't always applaud like after every solo or whatever. But after the tune is done, they'll give you all they have. Or after the concert is done. But they have a very big thing about honor there. That's a cultural thing. And that's what I notice. But, you know, I can get a terribly enthusiastic in a good way audience in Salina, Kansas. It just varies. It varies all over the place. But I was born in Kansas.

AAJ: We're a long, long way from Kansas

KA: Right.

AAJ: The British, as an audience. They're sort of reserved.

KA: They may be a little more reserved perhaps. But when you're talking to them on a break or signing CDs, and they're not reserved at all.

AAJ: That's something else, but as an... an audience, yes, exactly. It has to do with the culture.

AAJ: Yes. They just don't let loose.

KA: In the same way.

AAJ: But one on one it's different. Americans hoot and holler and whistle and they'll give you standing ovation for anything.

Karrin AllysonKA: We were just in Switzerland, to name a culture that seems to sort of reserved, but those audiences were tremendously enthusiastic during, after and everything. I was really surprised. We played a club there called Maryann's Jazz Club in Bern for a week. And it was an amazingly enthusiastic crowd. It was surprising.

AAJ: You played in one place for a week? Nowadays that' doesn't happen too often.

KA: We were there. well, we have long-standing gigs in places like Seattle at Jazz Alley, Birdland, Dizzy's, Blue Note, the Iridium—a week long thing we've done. Catalina's in Los Angeles. Several places throughout the country there's still a week long performance.

AAJ: And you've worked in Chicago?

KA: Chicago, usually at the Green Mill, which is a whole 'nother story.

AAJ: Tell me about the Green Mill.

KA: The Green Mill is a trip. And I have been working at the Green Mill ever since my first CD in 1990, or whatever because I called Dave Jemillo and just asked for a gig, sent him a CD and he liked it. And after the first weekend we played there, he said, "We have a lifetime verbal contract and you come back." And it has been that way ever since.

I love playing the Green Mill. It's not a concert hall. It's a dive. And it's funky as hell and I mean dive in a good way because, first of all, he knows how to run that place. The sound is excellent. He has a wonderful sound man who is great with us. And it's just a gratifying musical experience to go there. And the crowd is right up with you. They have Big Al at the door who looks like a biker. Tattoos, bald. And he'll walk around and say, "Shut up, she's singin'!" So it's a great club.

AAJ: Yes, because that club has a musical history and I 've seen pictures of the place.

KA: Right. They the Al Capone days and all that. They have a whole network underground, I've heard. I haven't seen it, but they have underground networks, tunnels from the speakeasy days.

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