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What's so good about Karrin Allyson?
When I was a student at the University of Toronto, I remember one of my teachers suggesting that a good singer does more than just sing well - he or she is also a great band leader and has a clear idea of what he or she wants to happen on the bandstand. Add to that package a background in classical piano and a total mastery of the voice as an instrument, and you've got Karrin Allyson.
I'm pretty picky when it comes to vocalists. To me, a nice-sounding voice is only the starting point. I also want to hear great control; confidence; interesting interpretation; and a certain degree of fearlessness. Karrin Allyson possesses all of these qualities in spades. Whether singing the melody, a written line or improvising, she's in total control of her instrument. On this clip, she takes the Bobby Timmons classic "Moanin'" and makes it sound like it was written for voice. Plus - check out the line she sings with the guitar at 1:47:
What also impresses me about Karrin is the ease with which she performs a wide range of repertoire in a wide range of settings. She's just as likely to be performing a duo with guitar (while sitting at the piano) as she is to be in front of a combo or a big band. She's just as comfortable singing from the Great American Songbook as she is performing jazz standards, singing classic bossas in Portuguese or covering a Joni Mitchell tune. Regardless of the setting, she makes it sound easy. Here she is in full bossa mode:
Karrin Allyson has now released 13 albums on the Concord label; her most recent, 'Round Midnight, was nominated for a 2012 Grammy Award in the Best Vocal Jazz category. She's performed around the world and has earned a well-deserved reputation as a great bandleader. When she steps on stage, the chemistry she produces as an artist - and with her bandmates - will quickly become clear. Here's Karrin talking about what inspires her musically, and what inspired 'Round Midnight specifically: