Karrin Allyson Comes to the Rrazz Room

by E. "Doc" Smith on August 31, 2012

Karrin Allyson has been described by the L.A. Times writer Don Heckman, as a “musician’s musician,” and for once the overused term actually makes sense — a complete performance by a complete artist — one of the jazz world’s finest”. Heckman isn’t far wrong and this weekend, Allyson brings her talents and a great combo to the Rrazz Room at the Nikko Hotel for performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

May 2011 marked a milestone for multiple Grammy nominated singer and pianist Karrin Allyson and Concord Jazz — the release of Round Midnight, the thirteenth album in a series dating back to her 1992 debut album “I Didn’t Know About You.” Karrin writes, “Imagine yourself, in the city, walking, late at night. It’s “’Round Midnight.” The wind is cold but you hear some warm sounds and you follow your ear down into a small, dark club. There’s a woman at the piano, singing these intimate ballads—one after the other. Maybe you’ve just recently suffered a heartache, or maybe the lyrics, melodies, and harmonies evoke feelings you have somewhere down deep inside. Each one of these songs holds great meaning for me—as I hope they do or will for you.

Rod Fleeman, Ed Howard, and Matt Wilson (the rhythm section featured on this album) play so beautifully together and were such a groove to work with. Matt’s time and inventiveness are legendary but what I really love about him is his remarkable gift for using color to tell the story. (We had one very simple rehearsal in my NYC apartment before heading into the recording studio. No amps, no big deal. In that way, it’s pretty vulnerable and open—just like the songs.) And the very talented Randy Weinstein and Bob “Shep” Sheppard added just the right colors and nuances to the tunes they graced with their presence. I love all of their playing…”

13 albums! — That’s worth shouting about. And that’s just what music lovers and critics around the world have been doing — shouting Allyson’s name from the rooftops, marveling at the range of this extraordinary musician, who moves with such ease and authority from the Great American Songbook of Gershwin and Porter to the Great American Jazz Songbook of Duke and Thelonius and Miles and Dizzy, jet-setting to Rio and Paris and swinging back home to pick up Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell and Jimmy Webb. What unites this wide world of music — brings it together and makes sense of it all — is Karrin Allyson’s warmth and depth. She’s not just singing a lyric, she’s telling you her story. And then that becomes your story. You hear the music from the inside out.

Karrin lives in New York City, following a childhood in the midwest, schooling in the Bay Area, a degree in classical piano performance and important stints in Minneapolis and Kansas City, where she began her recording career with Concord Jazz. Karrin currently spends two days out of three on tour, playing the major jazz festivals, concert venues and clubs of the U.S. and making repeated tours overseas — to Brazil, Japan, Australia and the great cities of Europe.

Among musicians, Karrin is known as a great bandleader and one of the great pleasures of the current scene is listening to her highly developed interplay with her bandmates — it sounds so effortless — but it conceals the deep musical sophistication. This is one of Allyson’s great achievements — the result of working for more than a decade with an ensemble of fearless and powerfully committed jazz virtuosi.

Still need convincing? Here’s the legendary jazz critic Gary Giddins in The Village Voice: “Allyson coolly stakes her claim. She brings a timbre that is part ice and part grain — incisive, original, and emotionally convincing.” The Houston Press agrees: “If there’s a choir in heaven, someday the exquisite vocalist Karrin Allyson will lead it. She’s such an otherworldly talent that the creator probably already has her on heavy rotation.”

Heart, intelligence, warmth — an emotional range from bittersweet to sassy —you hear it every time you listen. Make no mistake – Karrin Allyson is singing to you.

Karrin Allyson
Fri, Sat, Sun 8/31, 9/1-2
Jazz at the Rrazz – Rrazz Room at the Nikko Hotel
180 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA.
Fri, Sat 7:30 pm
Sun 5:00 pm

Filed under: Arts & Entertainment