Karrin Allyson

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Karrin Allyson

Birdland, NYC, January 17, 2016

Reviewed by Rob Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Karrin-Allyson-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212Although NYC-ensconced, our first 20 minutes were in Oklahoma! Not the state—the classic musical. If you thought that old-school musical couldn’t be hip and swinging, you haven’t met jazz vocalist Karrin Allyson since she met Rodgers & Hammerstein on her Grammy-nominated CD, Many a New Day, invigorating their work in many a new way. I came in an admirer of disc and diva, departing even more convinced. Decidedly down-to-earth in manner, self-aggrandizing ways dismissed as anathema, the attractive singer is nevertheless more charismatic, getting into music with her whole body. She bends with beats, lurches lioness-like, turns in tempo, swivels with swing, grooving with grace. The music’s electricity is a current—song to singer to musicians to audience and back. I’m often vexed by stylists embellishing lines with some few extra words and substitutions, Sinatra-ish-ly, but I admit begrudgingly that canny Karrin Allyson’s such elongating liberties can add unique spice and spirit.

Ed Howard makes bass solos and support truly interesting. Newfound treasure: Young pianist Miro Sprague, face scrunched in concentrated involvement: willowy, leaning into the keys long fingers spread, darting and dancing over them with adeptness and originality as the singer and audience appreciatively react. Soon she’s on the bench accompanying herself on the wryly pessimistic “I Don’t Worry ‘Bout a Thing” by similarly-named jazzer, Mose Allison, and well-timed humorous lyric delivery and attitude arrive. Blues, be-bop, Brazilian ballads and scat are deftly displayed as more evidence of versatility. Fluid vocal control is impressive, with sustained high notes notably showcasing shimmer, eschewing shouting. Gossamer gains ground. A major bonus: her own skillful songwriting and lyrics with a specific point of view. She’s got it all.

This songbird’s back at Birdland (mid-April run), flying to Metropolitan Room’s live taping of Cabaret Scenes partner David Kenney’s radio show April 4.

Rob Lester

2015 is native New Yorker Rob Lester's eighth year as contributing writer, beginning by reviewing a salute to Frank Sinatra, whose recordings have played on his personal soundtrack since the womb. (His Cabaret Scenes Foundation member mom started him with her favorite; like his dad, he became an uber-avid record collector/ fan of the Great American Songbook's great singers and writers.) Soon, he was attending shows, seeking out up-and-comers and already-came-ups, still reading and listening voraciously. He also writes for www.NiteLifeExchange.com and www.TalkinBroadway.com, has been cabaret-centric as awards judge, panel member/co-host, and produces benefit/tribute shows, including one for us.