Donnelly: Karrin Allyson, One of Jazz’s Finest, Returns to KC at Jardine’s

What a dream it must be… Can you imagine it?

A little girl from Great Bend, Kansas, discovers the piano at a young age.  She seems a natural, plinking and pounding away.  Soon she starts singing as well, and her voice carries with it a weight not possessed by many others. 

She moves to Omaha and formally studies the piano. She starts gigging at small clubs in the area, then moves on to Minneapolis, then KC, all the while honing her gift of a voice. She records her first record around her 30th birthday and it receives high praise from the jazz community.

Maybe this could be my thing. Maybe this IS my thing.

On to the Big Apple..


That was 1998.  Since then, Karrin Allyson has added more feathers her distinguished cap. 

She’s recorded and released 13 albums, three of which were Grammy nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album.  She has performed in every classic venue you can think of, including, of course, Carnegie Hall, and others around the world.

Her most recent album, ‘Round Midnight, was released this past May on the Concord jazz label.  The album features Allyson playing all of the piano parts and shaping songs as varied as Paul Simon’s April Come She Will and Gordon Jenkins’ Goodbye into a seamless dialogue of loss and longing – but with a sparkling light just barely visible around the next corner.

"It’s a ‘late-night listening set,’" explains Allyson, "so, those kinds of heart break yet hopeful tunes. It’s an atmospheric project but has specific emotional content I think– and great players: Rod Fleeman, Bob Shepard, Ed Howard, Matt Wilson & Randy Weinstein."

Recently, Downbeat Magazine’s Kirt Silsbee gave the album 5 stars.  But he also made a point to praise Allyson’s live performances as well when he wrote, "Like Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae, magical moments occur in Allyson’s live sets when she accompanies herself on the piano. Her keyboard work here is almost subliminal – as much felt as heard. The recessed rhythm vamp on Spring helps her to subtly swing at the absolute lowest possible tempo and dynamic."

For those of you who are into magical moments, consider yourselves lucky – Allyson is swinging through KC next week for a series of performances at Jardine’s on November 28th and 29th.  Each night features a 6:30 performance as well as an 8:30 show.

KC obviously holds a special spot in Allyson’s musical heart. 

"From my first gigs at my uncle’s club The Phoenix," she reminisces, "to the City Light on the Plaza, to the Boulevard Cafe French gigs, Le Fou Frog, top of the Ritz, Jardine’s, several festivals and university performances there –the Folly last May!- and sooo many more in between."

What to expect of the Jardine’s shows?  Allyson says that the repertoire will be varied.  And the musicians she’s bringing along are top notch – Rod Fleeman on guitars, Gerald Spaits on bass, and Randy Weinstein on harmonica.

And Jardine’s seems to be growing on her a little bit.

"I’m proud of Beena at Jardine’s that she takes chances with national acts- that’s very brave and unusual especially for a ‘local club’ – and I mean that in the best sense. When she does that, she really knows how to present an artist/ concert. I hope she continues that great talent as well as with the local scene and musicians, which is always growing and deserves just as much respect."
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9 Responses to Donnelly: Karrin Allyson, One of Jazz’s Finest, Returns to KC at Jardine’s

  1. balbonis moleskine says:

    Good to see a local girl make good!

  2. legendaryhog says:

    Uhh… is that a link to a pirated copy of her music, dude?
    Weird. I’m sure she appreciates Matt’s review and promo, not sure about the pirated link.

  3. balbonis moleskine says:

    I doubt anyone under 60 knows how to operate a torrent program.

    For those of us who don’t usually listen to vocal jazz, DL an album and if you like it, see her show.

  4. harley says:

    nice girl…really slow boring
    show. Save your money for when they have a better act. I prefer to go to phoenix….fun…lots of
    buzz….and better prices.

  5. Hearne Christopher says:

    You forgot to mention the infinitesimally small stage and over-the-hill piano

  6. Robertoe says:

    Sings as smooth as a butterfly. Slaps like a bee!

  7. Robertoe says:

    Hearne, Greg Halstead did it right with the small venue and stage. He knew it was important for jazz clubs to feel intimate, small and jiving. Look at all the larger venues that have come and gone. And he used to ask why spend big bucks on a piano when I’ve got to tune it every week because of Joe Cartright beating hell out of it when he played each week (it was a compliment).

  8. Jack Scott says:

    I first heard her sing when we were in our late teens, early 20’s. Her voice hits me as no other ever has. She was great in Tomboy. An all girl band doing mostly top 40 cover tunes. But when I heard her sing jazz I knew it was her forte. I caught her in Omaha last summer and was mesmerized by her voice and piano playing. Her band is also top notch.

  9. smartman says:

    It’s Up To You!
    If I can make it there I’ll make it anywhere IT’S UP TO YOU JARDINES, JARDINES.

    She’s to jazz what David Cook is to rock n’ roll. NOT MUCH.

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