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Karrin Allyson

In Blue (Concord)


Kansas City has always been fertile ground for up-and-coming jazz vocalists -- the difference is that these days they seldom stay in town. Sultry songbird Karrin Allyson flew the KC coop for the bright lights of New York, proving that at least the local scene can still be an effective steppingstone for dedicated and talented artists.

Following her acclaimed, Grammy-nominated effort Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane, Allyson offers In Blue, a collection of blues-themed tracks that stretches from traditional standards to reinterpreted pop classics. Unafraid to break from the confines of the twelve-bar blues, Allyson explores the genre's many shades and subtle hues, from the pained heartbreak of "Moanin'" to the playful taunting of Bonnie Raitt's "Love Me Like a Man."

Backed by Kansas City guitarist Danny Embrey, saxophonist Steve Wilson, pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash, Allyson covers a wide range of material and styles with an elegant sense of grace and tasteful intensity. Embrey in particular shines from one track to the next, embracing the nouveau-jazz/pop postures of Joni Mitchell's "Blue Motel Room" with the same sense of serious sophistication he lends to the disc's more standard fare. Although Allyson's gentle approach lacks the down-and-dirty punch some of these tracks demand, glaringly apparent in her all-too-demure take on "Evil Gal Blues," she makes up for such rare moments of reserve with feisty renderings of Oscar Brown Jr.'s lyrical charmers "Long as You're Living" and "Hum Drum Blues."

Though this current outing might not capture the same sort of critical acclaim as Ballads, an album that was celebrated as much for its concept as it was for its execution, In Blue represents another step forward for Allyson and should spur local interest in seeking out other undiscovered treasures that might be languishing in area clubs.

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