Thursday, September 2, 2010

Karrin's Happy Madness

© Andrea Canter

It seems too easy to just write that singer Karrin Allyson pushes the bar higher each time she comes to town. Accurate, but too easy. So thinking further, I realize that what pushes her above most of the fine artists, and particularly vocalists, who come to the Dakota is her bold attitude toward both herself and her audience—a willingness to experiment right there on stage, which presumes a willingness to falter as much as a desire to soar. It’s an attitude that shows both confidence in one’s own ability and respect for, and confidence in, the audience. No matter what recording has just been released, what favorites are anticipated or requested, Karrin is never content to just ride through on a sure thing. She brings us new tunes, perhaps testing out audience reaction, perhaps challenging herself to move out of the comfort zone, perhaps merely going in the direction that feels right at the moment.

She wants us to enjoy our favorites (and that is a long list!) but she also wants us to experience the joy of hearing new arrangements and new songs, to share her own joy of discovery that gives each set a fresh point of interaction with the audience, be it filled with family and old friends or new encounters. Her 2009 By Request: The Best of Karrin Allyson was represented but did not dominate her Monday night set at the Dakota. Rather, she opened on a new note with the seldom sung Richard Rodgers swinger, “Loads of Love,” countered with one of her bilingual signatures, “Happy Madness (Estrada Branca),” came back with another new (overdue!) entry to her songbook, “Born to Be Blue,” and another favorite, a humorously dramatic rendering of “Robert Frost.” She saved her boldest moment for the encore, not a request, not a “best of,” but a solo (“I have never played this before”) knock-out of Anthony Newly’s “No Such Thing As Love.”

And for Karrin, there’s no place to hide with only guitar (Rod Fleemans), bass (Larry Kohut) and her own (excellent) keyboard skills on the stage. We’ll hear everything. We see the little nuances of musician interaction. We hear each note and each syllable of lyric. We’ll notice any hesitation delivering new words and new notes. And we’ll also quickly notice that the intonation, articulation and interpretation are as spot-on when the song is the ever-requested “O Partot” as when Karrin goes out on a limb, alone, on “No Such Thing As Love.” And she seems quite comfortable on that limb, trying a new tune, a new arrangement, a new gesture, hearing a new response--what makes this jazz.

See full review on Jazz Police at
Photos: (top to bottom) Karrin Allyson at the Dakota, with Larry Kohut on bass and Rod Fleemans on guitar, on August 30, 2010 (photos by Andrea Canter)