If Alyssa Allgood's debut EP Lady Bird made a splash, then Out of the Blue is a veritable deluge of inspired thinking. The Chicago vocalist's imprint is evident in every lick of this full-length follow-up. From the original lyrics and arrangements to her choice of musicians and production, Allgood uses everything in her toolkit throughout 10 redux tunes from the Blue Note catalog. Many of these tracks started out as instrumentals in their heyday, foregrounding the melodic and improvisational stylings of pioneers as diverse as Bobby Timmons, Wayne Shorter, and Hank Mobley. The latter's "Dig Dis" is carefully reimagined here as "Watch Me Walk Away," an emotional anthem that, by Allgood's lyrical spark, bears the torch of Dionne Warwick's "Walk on By." From bar one, the talents of Dan Chase (organ), Tim Fitzgerald (guitar), and Matt Plaskota (drums) are duly evident under Allgood's unforced control. Their rapport establishes a running pattern, as Fitzgerald salves Chase's flames with legato suggestions, while Plaskota stays true to the roots beneath it all. The chemical brilliance of their reactions sings through collective vehicles like "Beatrice" (Sam Rivers), "Moanin'" (Bobby Timmons), and Lee Morgan's "Only a Memory (Ceora)" with smoothest conviction.
Naturally, saxophonist Chris Madsen adds his two cents and so much more to awesome effect in John Coltrane's "Noticing the Moment (Moment's Notice)" and Shorter's "Speak No Evil." In the first, a lyrical mission statement for the project if there is one, he harmonizes with Allgood but also ventures out on his own, trailing her command of melody with cool afterglow. In the second, he complements the bandleader's mahogany intonation with audible moonlight. Madsen further epitomizes the vibrancy of the engineering, which gives the album the feeling of having been recorded live in a club. This atmosphere reaches peak density in the album's closer, a sumptuous take on "Mirrors" by Joe Chambers.
But it's Allgood, with that fullness of expression found in so few vocalists cut from current cloth, who attracts the brightest spotlight. Sounding even more mature than she did on her first album, she is quintessential in every regard. The artistry of her scat and vocalese, whether it floats like a butterfly in "It's You or No One" (also a marathon run for Plaskota) or stings like a bee in Joe Henderson's "If," she treats the art of wordless singing as it should bewhich is to say, as an instrument in its own right. But, in the same way that I often marvel at the pencil sketches of master painters, I find myself marveling just as well over her straightforward balladry. There's something about her delivery, for instance, of Horace Silver's "Peace" that speaks to the very heart of her persona and how much more light it has to give before it runs out of wick. The end result is an album of such charm and intelligence in equal measure, it'll having you saying all's good with Allgood at a time when the same might not be said for the world at large.
Watch Me Walk Away (Dig Dis); Noticing The Moment (Moment's Notice); It's You Or No One; Speak No Evil; Beatrice; Peace; If; Only A Memory (Ceora); Moanin'; Mirrors.
Alyssa Allgood: voice; Dan Chase: organ; Tim Fitzgerald: guitar; Chris Madsen: saxophone; Matt Plaskota: drums.
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