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Tribute to the more tender side of ‘Trane

Ballads – Remembering John Coltrane

Karrin Allyson



Concord Jazz




Grade: A-

It’s not uncommon for instrumentalists – mainly reedmen – to pay tribute to ’60s tenor sax giant John Coltrane, but you probably can count on one hand the number of singers who have devoted entire albums to ‘Trane. Karrin Allyson, she of the smoky Diana Krall-type voice, is one of them.

This is Allyson’s seventh recording on the Concord label, and it may well be her best yet, due in great part to the fact the singer has long been admirer of ‘Trane. More specifically of the album, “Ballads,” that features the tenorman in a mellowed-out mode. So it only figures that Allyson would choose to re-record the songs on Coltrane’s album, even going so far as singing the selections in the order ‘Trane played them on his recording.

To fill out the program, Allyson also adds three selections the instrumentalist recorded on other albums: the wordless “Naima” from “Giant Steps,” “Why Was I Born?” from a session with Kenny Burrell, and the often-overlooked “Everytime I Say Goodbye” from “My Favorite Things.”

And it all adds up to a very pleasing outing for the singer who spent 20 years working clubs in Minnesota before gaining national prominence. Allyson is a vocalist who gets inside the lyrics, strings phrases together into a flowing stream, and makes a point to listen to her accompaniment which, in this case, is a rhythm section and an assortment of tenor saxists. In short, she’s a complete singer.

In transferring the songs from the instrumental state where Coltrane placed them back into the vocal universe, Allyson moves through the 11 selections effortlessly. Most of them are taken at a languorous, laid-back pace. “Say It Over Again,” “Too Young To Go Steady” and “What’s New?” certainly fit that description as does “It’s Easy To Remember.” And “I Wish I Knew,” another hand-holder, finds Allyson accompanying herself on piano.

In addition to a rock-solid rhythm section comprised of pianist James Williams, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Lewis Nash, Allyson is joined by tenorman Bob Berg for two songs and Steve Wilson (soprano sax) and James Carter (tenor sax) for three tunes each.

Bottom line: A disc just made for a cool evening in front of a warm fire.

Cam Miller is a free-lance jazz critic in Lake Wildwood. You may write to him care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.


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