Vocalist Karrin Allyson's musicality can simultaneously intrigue the aficionado and delight the dilettante. For instance: Her latest album (Collage, on Concord) opens with a medley that pairs the sweet standard "It Could Happen to You" and a hard-bop jazz line by Dexter Gordon called "Fried Bananas." The two twine perfectly, one song giving way to the other, even if you don't pick up on the fact that the latter tune is based on the former--a connection I never made, and thank Allyson for pointing out. Similarly, she takes Jay Leonhart's earnest and nearly dull homage "Robert Frost" and, with her matter-of-fact phrasing and a burst of rhythmic intensity on the bridge, she fancifully revives it--a substantial improvement regardless of whether you can figure out how she did it. Well honed as they may be, Allyson's interpretive skills almost recede behind the sunny sensuality of her distinctive timbre. There's nothing traditionally beautiful about her husky (and at times nearly hoarse) voice, but I find it absolutely irresistible, with a warm, welcoming rasp and a tomboy quality that carries over to her phrasing. It conveys a lighthearted sense of adventure, which also resides in her approach to the beat: right on top, or even just ahead, of a song's pulse. (This quality proves most valuable on the Brazilian rhythms that dot Allyson's repertoire, but it gives everything she sings a certain crisp, perky edge.) While she'll share the city with a better-known Allison--the veteran singer-pianist Mose rattles cages downtown this weekend--neither age nor beauty should overshadow the other. Friday, 9 PM, and Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Jim Gass.