[JPL] Reconceiving 70's Favorites as Pop-Jazz Standards

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Sat Aug 28 16:44:42 EDT 2004

Reconceiving 70's Favorites as Pop-Jazz Standards

August 27, 2004

The jazz singer Karrin Allyson is young enough to have
fallen in love with 70's singer-songwriters like Joni
Mitchell, Elton John and Carly Simon while growing up, and
she's sophisticated enough to envision their songs in a
pop-jazz continuum that goes far beyond the soft-rock genre
they helped define. 

It is a concept that others have toyed with, but no one has
carried it as far or realized it as successfully as Ms.
Allyson, who is performing with a quartet (Bruce Barth on
piano, Danny Embrey on guitar, Bob Bowman on bass and Todd
Strait on drums) through Sept. 5 at Le Jazz au Bar (41 East
58th Street). 

Her newest album, "Wild for You" (Concord Jazz), includes
more than a dozen of those songs reconceived as pop-jazz
standards. Her show intersperses them with vintage
chestnuts, bossa nova and bebop in a program that changes
from set to set. 

Ms. Allyson has a medium-light voice that she flexes and
bends with an insouciant self-assurance and feline
sensuousness. She sings from the wised-up but far from
jaded perspective of a woman who knows the score but keeps
her chin up. She is particularly impressive when singing
the blues in an unadorned folk-pop style that at times
echoes Bonnie Raitt. 

Wednesday's early show offered many small revelations. Joni
Mitchell's effusive stream-of-consciousness, "All I Want,"
it seems, was always a jazz song, and the quartet's
instrumental fortification underlined Ms. Allyson's
impressive vocal fluidity. Toned down from a speech into a
whisper, Elton John's "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word"
took on an emotional immediacy that the composer's
oratorical delivery crushed. Her devastatingly offhand
rendition of Randy Newman's "Guilty" located a
self-loathing masochism that Ms. Raitt's rendition only
hinted at. 

Heard in the wider musical context that Ms. Allyson and her
group provided, most of the 70's songs emerged as more
durable pieces of work than they seemed originally, when
the singer and the composer appeared inseparable. It turns
out the songs stand on their own and are surprisingly
amenable to outside interpretation. Ms. Allyson has done
the songwriters a favor. 



Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
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