Songstress Karrin Allyson spreads wide her conceptual wings on her sixth release for Concord Jazz, crooning in three languages in an engaging salute to France and Brazil that may be short on Jazz but is long on emotion and charm. Allyson is cute as a button, the folks in Kansas City (where she resides) love her, and who are we to disagree? Allyson sings exactly as she looks, in a bright and lovable voice whose timbre reminds me (I’m dating myself here) of her namesake, June Allyson, a queen of the MGM musicals in the late ’40s–early ’50s. As June was always one of my favorite entertainers, that’s a compliment. Also complimentary is my admiration for Karrin’s ability to sing so fluently in French or Portuguese (a language most of us don’t learn in school), not only inflecting flawlessly (at least, as far as I can tell) but capturing as well the distinctive temperament that sets each of them apart from other languages, and for her Gilbert and Sullivan–like knack for unraveling tongue–twisting lyrics almost nonchalantly (as on “O Pato” — The Duck— which she interprets wonderfully in English). She’s so proficient in French and Portuguese that it’s almost shocking to hear Allyson singing in her native tongue, as she does also on “Inutil Paisagem” and the album’s closing tune, “That Day” — a gorgeous lyric adapted from the Italian film Cinema Paradiso. That’s the only detour from France or Brazil on the roadway, but Allyson says she had to include the song simply because it’s so lovely, and she’s right. Karrin’s no show–off, preferring to let the lyrics speak for themselves, but she can scat like Ella or Sarah if she chooses to, as for example on Bud Powell’s busy “Parisian Thoroughfare.” Allyson says she has long been in love with the music of France and Brazil, and that love shines intensely throughout this ardent recital. It seems to be shared by her sidemen too, as they play with a passion usually reserved for those one holds near and dear. These are some of the best Jazz musicians KC has to offer, and it’s always a special treat to hear the superb Kim Park (alto on “O Barquinho” and “Parisian Thoroughfare,” flute on “Catavento e Girasol”). In a bumper crop of accomplished young female Jazz singers, Karrin Allyson stands as tall as that corn in Oklahoma! — “as high as an elephant’s eye” — and it looks like she’s climbin’ clear up to the sky.
Track listing: Sous le Ciel de Paris (Under Paris Skies); Samba Saravah; Te Amo (I Love You); O Pato (The Duck); Ne Me Quitte Pas (If You Go Away); Plasir d’Amour (The Pleasure of Love); O Barquinho (My Little Boat); Coração Vagabundo (My Vagabond Heart); Parisian Thoroughfare; Des Histoires; Inutil Paisagem (Useless Landscape); Catavento e Girasol (Windmill and Sunflower); Aria (from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5); That Day (Cinema Paradiso) (67:43).
Karrin Allyson, vocals, piano, percussion; Gil Goldstein, accordion, piano; Paul Smith, piano, synthesizer; Danny Embrey, Rod Fleeman, acoustic guitar; Bob Bowman, bass; Todd Strait, drums, percussion; Doug Auwarter, surdo, drums. String section