Karrin Allyson | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Karrin Allyson 

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I admit it, straight out. I love the sound of Karrin Allyson's voice--the basic physical timbre of it--and even if she didn't do so right by it, I still wouldn't miss the opportunity to listen to her. But the Kansas City-based Allyson does do right: she has just about the whole package. She scats with a mix of learned skill and instinctual musicality, playing her voice like a piano (her first instrument). More often she offers up indelible paraphrase, improvising on the melody while retaining the lyrics. She excels at jackrabbit tempos but also handles the slow tunes with real conviction, and her interpretations range from introspective (but unsentimental) ballads to giddy Brazilian-flavored standards. The voice, though--that's what most people carry with them after hearing Allyson. It's a husky voice with a raspy edge, and it has a sunny sensuality that reminds me of June Allyson (no relation, I presume). Her voice seems to be smiling, and it has a tomboy quality mirrored in her phrasing, with its lighthearted sense of adventure: singing right on and even just ahead of the beat, Allyson conveys an unmistakable vitality in any mood or setting. On her third album, the new Azure-Te (Concord), she continues to hone her lovely style without really moving beyond the concept of her previous album. From what I can tell, she'll reach the next stage in her musical development by drawing on the edgy energy of her live performances--as good a reason as all the rest for catching her shows this weekend. Friday, 9 PM, and Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 878-5552.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Michael Kilgore.

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