Live Jazz: Karrin Allyson at Catalina Bar & Grill

By James DeFrances

Hollywood. The holiday season was in full swing Thursday night at Catalina’s Jazz Club in Hollywood with some good old fashioned yuletide cheer. 4-time Grammy nominee singer-pianist Karrin Allyson took center stage to entertain the eager crowd.

Her show was a bit of a departure from a typical straight ahead jazz event though. The configuration of the band, for one, was unique in the fact that there was a Hammond B3 organ and a rhythm guitar. And the material was special, too, for this time of year, a specific holiday format

Karrin Allyson
Karrin Allyson

Allyson had just flown into Southern California earlier that day and at one point she mentioned that “being on a plane for 6 hours messes with your head a bit.” But honestly I don’t think anyone could tell she had been traveling. To me she seemed completely calm, confident and fully capable of showing off her vocal bag of tricks!

Her set list ranged from acoustic, unplugged type arrangements to soulful blues-esque rhythm pieces. Her whimsical phrasing and expert “play by feel” timing brought each and every song to life. Allyson conversationally said to the crowd that she had always wanted a backup singer, or to be a backup singer with a glass half empty/glass half full tone of voice. What this statement actually intended to do was introduce the sprightly young vocalist and songsmith Aubrey Caswell who had written a few tunes recently for Allyson. She was amongst the audience tonight and was promptly invited up on stage to perform two duets. Aubrey is the daughter of Chris “Kazz” Caswell who was already on stage as part of the band, playing the organ.

Aubrey Caswell and Karrin Allyson
Aubrey Caswell and Karrin Allyson

The audience warmly received the younger Caswell, her well refined stage presence and her vocal talents. Allyson and Caswell performed “Winter Oasis” from her most recent album Yuletide Hideaway. Other highlights of the evening included Allyson’s moving solo performance of Johnny Mandel’s “The Shadow of Your Smile” (she even did the verse!) and Mose Allison’s “I Don’t Worry About a Thing.”

In a world of cookie cutter duplicates Karrin Allyison sometimes recalls Norah Jones and Liza Minnelli. But her musical stamp is purely her own. She’s a one of a kind talent, and there’s everything to praise about that!

There’s one more chance to hear Karrin Allyson — tonight (Saturday) at Catalina Bar & Grill.  Don’t miss her.  And be sure to check out her Christmas CD, Yuletide Hideaway.

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Photos by James DeFrances.

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