Born: in Great Bend, KS
Styles: Vocal Jazz, Standards, Bop
Instruments: Vocals, Piano
One of the more impressive jazz singers to emerge in the 1990s, Karrin Allyson is a great scat singer but also highly expressive on ballads. Born in Great Bend, Kansas, Allyson grew up in Omaha, NE and the San Francisco Bay Area - during which time Allyson began taking classical piano lessons, in addition to performing as a folk singer and in an all-female rock band, Tomboy. Upon graduating from the University of Nebraska in 1987 (and receiving a degree in piano), Allyson sang regularly at a Kansas City nightclub owned by her uncle, a locale where Allyson decided to settle down and call her permanent home base. Signed to the Concord Jazz label, Allyson issued her debut, I Didn't Know About You, in 1992, which led to such accolades as being name-checked in Playboy Magazine's Annual Reader's Poll alongside such greats as Ella Fitzgerald and Shirley Horn. Subsequently, Allyson assembled a fine backing band consisting of fellow Kansas City musicians - pianist Paul Smith, guitarists Danny Embrey and Rod Fleeman, bassist Bob Bowman and drummer Todd Strait - who have played on the majority of her recordings.
Allyson continued issuing albums at a steady pace throughout the remainder of the decade, including such titles as 1993's Sweet Home Cookin', 1994's Azure-Te, plus a pair in 1996, Collage and Daydream. For her final release of the '90s, 1999's From Paris to Rio, Allyson decided to try something different, and issued an album in which she sang lyrics in French and Portuguese, while covering a lot of ground stylistically (everything from a Jacques Brel cover to samba and bossa nova tunes). Allyson's next offering, 2001's Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane, proved to be one of the most acclaimed and successful of her entire career, as it earned a pair of Grammy nominations. For 2002's In Blue, Allyson opted to cover other artists' material (Mose Allsion, Joni Mitchell, George and Ira Gershwin, Blossom Dearie, Abbey Lincoln, Oscar Brown Jr., and Bonnie Raitt), as the singer only penned one of the album's 13 tracks. Over the years, Allyson has performed at some of the U.S.' top concert halls, including an all-star tribute to Ella Fitzgerald at New York's Carnegie Hall, in addition to playing alongside both the Kansas City and Omaha Symphonies.
- Scott Yanow & Greg Prato (All Music Guide)