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ClassicsOnline Home » ALLEN, Jackie: Which?
By Howard Reich
By Kirk Silsbee
The New Times Los Angeles
"With the passing of most of the bankable giants of vocal jazz during the last 10 years or so, audiences finally have to pay attention to the younger practitioners who have quietly been honing heir work. This Saturday, locals get a viewing of Chicago's Jackie Allen, and it's an engagement that should go a long way in cementing a relationship between a worthy out-of-town artist and Los Angeles. Allen's current CD, Which? (Naxos Jazz), is an L.A. production, featuring a stellar band that includes saxophonists Red Holloway and Gary Foster, trombonist Bruce Paulson. pianist Bill Cunliffe, bassist Jim Hughart, and drummer Roy McCurday. It is as close to a perfect vocalist album as we're likely to hear this year.
Allen is well-known in Chicago, both as a singer and teacher. She's prized for her sure footed musicality: Allen knows her chord changes, sings in tune, works in the moment, and phrases with great rhythmic aplomb. Repertoire is often the Achilles' heel for vocalists, but Allen's choices are most often exemplary: Billy Strayhorn's "Day Dream," the Billie Holiday/Mal Waldron torcher "Left Alone," Jon Hendricks' clever text to Horace Silver's "Doodlin'," Bobby Troup's "The Meaning of the Blues." and Cole Porter's naughty "It's Bad For Me." (Porter also wrote the the yearning gem of a title tune that gives the album its interesting name as well.) Even when she handles a less-than-inspiring tune, like "I Was Alittle Too Lonely," Allen manages to invest it with something special. She's got a warm, intimate alto voice that conveys passion in an understated yet undeniable way. Likewise, Allen's got a sense of swing that's so second nature that it's discernible on her own "Admit It," a near-ballad in 3/4. It's no surprise then that she treads blues territory much in the same way that Peggy Lee did - not through imitation but with musical authority and genuine feeling. in so doing, Allen nicely skirts the white-black authenticity issue. She has everything, and you owe it to yourself to hear Jackie Allen."
Catalogue: Naxos Jazz 86042-2
Jackie Allen (vocals)
Bill Cunliffe (piano)
Red Holloway (tenor sax)
Gary Foster (alto sax)
Bruce Paulson (trombone)
Jim Hughart (bass)
Roy McCurdy (drums)
About the music
Chicago chanteuse Jackie Allen has crafted a record irresistibly stylish and comfortable, like a bed of satin on a star-filled night. The intimate feel of the disc extends to her intuitive sidemen, which includes Bill Cunliffe, Red Holloway and Gary Foster, who tailor their sound to the songs. There’s variety in the selections, from bedtime ballads to blue-shaded introspective hymns to playful understated bop. An immensely enjoyable recording, Which? has a classiness that comes from Allen’s experience on the jazz circuit and refined song interpretations that are long on emotions and short on histrionics.
About Jackie Allen
Versatility, range, and infectious enthusiasm make Allen one of the most accomplished vocalists on the Chicago scene. A Midwestern-native who grew up surrounded by music, her father, Gene Allen, played Dixieland jazz tuba, Jackie Allen and her four siblings all played brass instruments. She formed her first jazz quartet in the mid-1980s. She began to develop her distinctive, sophisticated style while performing as a duo with Mel Rhyne, the original keyboardist for jazz legend Wes Montgomery. In Chicago, she now sings each week at downtown’s Lush Life, and regularly in Andy’s, the Green Mill, Pops for Champagne and Toulouse.
She has a self-produced CD, Never Let Me Go on Lake Shore Jazz, which rode the Gavin Jazz chart’s top 20 for 13 weeks and rated glowing reviews in Down Beat, Jazz Times, Swing Journal and the Chicago Tribune. another recording, Santa Baby, with pianist and singer Judy Roberts was named “the most endearing of the holiday albums* by the Chicago Tribune. Allen has performed in Europe at the North Sea Jazz Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Her performance with bassist Hans Sturm at the 1998 International Bass Festival in Edinburgh earned the two a recording contract, as well as a return engagement at the 1999 festival. Allen has also performed and recorded with jazz artist Patricia Barber, and had her songs recorded by Nnenna Freelon and Mark Murphy.
Visit Jackie Allen's Homepage at : http://myenvoy.com/jackieallen
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ALLEN, Jackie: Which?