The Kennedy Center

Karrin Allyson

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    Derek Gordon discusses Karrin Allyson's performance at the KC Jazz Club


Karrin Allyson pianist/vocalist attended the University of Nebraska in the early 1980s, majoring in classical piano, although jazz quickly captured her imagination. After college, Ms. Allyson started her career singing and playing the piano in restaurants. She relocated to Kansas City where she surrounded herself with some of the city's finest instrumentalists. For almost a decade, Ms. Allyson has worked with a core group of Kansas City musicians including pianist Paul E. Smith, drummer Todd Strait, bassist Bob Bowman, alto sax player Kim Park, and guitarists Danny Embry and Rod Fleeman. Those musicians all appeared on Ms. Allyson's first and self-produced CD, I Didn't Know About You in 1993. Unlike many jazz singers, she had the good fortune to make her debut for one of the largest independent jazz record labels in the world. Concord's vast distribution allowed Ms. Allyson to take her music all over the world. She has played clubs and jazz festivals throughout the United States, Japan and Europe.

Ms. Allyson's sharp ear and sensitivity to her fellow musicians is especially evident in her wordless improvising. Her idol is Portland-based jazz singer Nancy King, a fearless improviser with an eccentric repertoire. Despite Ms. Allyson's similarity for scatting, she is not a vocal abstractionist. She has a deep appreciation for the meaning of words, and she handles lyrics with admirable intelligence and insight. Ms. Allyson's light, flexible alto has a slight rasp that gives her timbre distinctiveness and texture. Her seventh release, Ballads - Remembering John Coltrane, (2001) was a double Grammy nominee. The origin of the album is not a clever record company executive, but rather Ms. Allyson's own gut level reaction to John Coltrane's Ballads (1962). Selecting an imaginative and eclectic collection of tunes ranging from soul jazz classics, ballads, modern blues and timeless pop; Ms. Allyson released In Blue (2002). Each song tells a story that illustrates a different emotional state. Hurt, loneliness, regret, unbridled anger, sadness and even bitterness are all given their due, running the full gamut of sentiments that make up the blues.
Karrin Allyson