I’ve never been a groupie but am learning to be one for Karrin Allyson, who sang and played a Steinway on September 20 at TCNJ. For those who had not seen her, it was an eye/ear popper.
Even for those of us who had been at last year’s benefit concert, Chansons pour le Congo, it was a revelation to have an additional voice on stage — Allyson’s plus the blues of Steve Cardenas’ bass guitar, cradling the tones between the notes in a heart-twanging response.
The brand new CD, Many a New Day, with Rodgers & Hammerstein tunes and Kenny Barron and John Pattitucci on bass, was similar to the concert but I’m sorry to say for those who weren’t there, the concert was way better. At least for me. Partly because you could see Allyson really ‘getting into it,’ standing slim and strong, sparkly bracelet on her wrist, shakin’ her shaker, red stiletto shoes tapping back and forth, crooning and belting in that Midwestern girl-next-door accent with the sexy under-breath. Or at the Steinway, inhabiting that piano, in control, red shoes planted wide, playing that piano like a cello, sole of one red shoe keeping the beat, into it.
For “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” on the CD, Allyson sets up the dawn version of a stride piano — delicate octaves like bird calls — and lights into the tune that recalls a cowboy riding past corn ‘as high as an elephants eye.‘ But this is no cowboy song. Oh no. And at the concert it was even more intimate, a sleepy-eyed aubade, S. O’Hara waking up on a beautiful morning after a beautiful night. And then Cardenas took that tune, caught it, and caressed those descending half-tones on ‘mor…n…ing,‘ a lover’s response.
What makes me a groupie — I want to hear it again on stage, because — good as Kenny Barron is on the piano — that song on the CD doesn’t evoke the heat of the live performance with Allyson playing as well as singing. I want to hear Cardenas and Allyson sing it again, live. Put me on the list!
Allyson will intro her album at Birdland, October 6-10. Kenny Barron’s show tours to McCarter on October 23. Allyson will be back in NYC in April at the Greene Space and Birdland.
Disclosure: I wrote some pro bono press releases for this concert, to benefit Congolese charities UFAR and FEBA