May 23, 2024

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Caffe Lena-bound jazz singer Karrin Allyson still doing it for fun: Video, Photos

Live concerts are back. But damage has been done to some people’s lives and businesses, and experts avow that cases of depression and related mental woes significantly rose in 2020. One thing that helps soothe people in difficult times is music, and for many the resumption of live music shows signifies a return to normalcy.

“There are songs that help you get through hard times,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from my listeners, ‘You’ve helped me get through hard times.’ So that makes me feel very good. I even heard from a few surgeons that they play our music while they’re operating. That’s bizarre. But music is a powerful healing force. We need that.”

Allyson is one of the finer jazz singers on the scene, performing with greats and playing all the major venues and festivals. She has twice appeared at the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival — in 2014 as part of the Newport at 60 all-star band and in 2016 with her own band. This will be her first stop at Caffe Lena. She said she put together a trio specifically for the intimacy of the room, consisting of herself on piano, guitarist Jason Ennis and bassist Marty Jaffe. The repertoire will include her own songs and tunes from other people she admires — Bonnie Raitt and Mose Allison among them — and some standards.

Jazz vocalist Karrin Allyson to bring 'Sunshine' | Peninsula Daily News

“It’s a pretty organic presentation, I would say. I depend on the audience’s reactions and enthusiasm or whatever,” she said. Even requests are possible.

She discovered jazz in college, but singer-songwriters in other genres are also big influences. Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, Carole King and Raitt fall in that category. Rhythm and blues artists like Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke are on her list as well. In the jazz world, she admires Dinah Washington, Carmen McRae and Louis Armstrong, among singers, as well as pianists Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans. She gets inspiration from horn players like trumpeter Clifford Brown. “I did a tribute to John Coltrane (“Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane,” Concord Jazz, 2001). I love his spiritual force,” she said.

No matter what song she selects, it comes out jazz. She loves the freedom of the art form and the improvisation it entails. “The fact that it doesn’t have to be done the same way every time. In fact, it’s best if it isn’t,” she says. “And the humor in it. I love the intelligence in it. … And that you can have your own voice in it no matter what you play,” she said.

Allyson spoke from her home in New York City just a few days after ending a Midwest tour. She was about to go back on the road, to Los Angeles, the Bay Area in California and then Seattle before hitting Saratoga. Then it’s off to dates in Massachusetts to round out the year. Early next year, the iconic Birdland nightclub in the Big Apple is on her schedule.

“It feels really great … And it just feels great to make music with other people,” she said.

Karrin Allyson (Photo: Jim O'Keefe)

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