Concert Review: Wellington Jazz Fest, Karrin Allyson
Wellington Jazz Festival
Opera House, June 9
Karrin Allyson has made 12 albums that have never received anything less than four stars and on Thursday night we were treated to a staggering array of her unique ability to pick and choose songs that have resonated over the years and can truly be called standards.
Allyson's approach is deceptively easy with a kind of "Welcome to my world", and like many singers, she leaves you with a sense of mystery and awe as she immerses herself into lyrical awareness of what the author had in mind.
It helps that Allyson brought with her a crack trio made up of bassist Tom Warrington, drummer Joe La Barbera and guitarist Larry Koonse, aided and abetted by the NZ School of Music Big Band.
In some respects, the concert was like a "Beginners' Guide to Jazz" with Roger Fox and the NZSM opening the show with a thunderous Thad Jones tune. Fox then introduced a female vocalist whose renditions of Let the Good Times Roll and the Ashford & Simpson-composed I Don't Need No Doctor was full-blooded and in keeping with the NZSM's wide repertoire. Allyson's guitarist Larry Koonse then joined in for a couple of tunes, the best being a guitar duet on an Oliver Nelson piece.
Then came the evening's highlight. A sassy, strutting, finger-snapping diva with a flawless microphone technique, Allyson instantly charmed us with a vocalese introduction to Roger and Hammerstein's immortal Happy Talk. For the next hour, we were treated to a couple of Mose Allison (no relation, 88 and still going) strong blues numbers, plus two tracks from her impressive catalogue of Tom Jobim's breezy Brazilian Bossa Nova's.
When the band was re-assembled, Allyson read Duke Jordan's instrumental Jordu with her own lyrics. It's now called Life Is a Groove and I don't think Allyson would mind if I say she channelled the late Eddie Jefferson or King Pleasure's vocalese style in giving the song a dramatic presence.
Based on this performance, I don't think it will be too long before Ms Allyson is invited back.