Jazz vocalist Karrin Allyson has one peer: Cassandra Wilson. Both women have impacted jazz vocals in the last decade, swerving the genre into interesting places. Allyson’s most critically acclaimed release, Ballads (Concord, 2001), came after the release of six solid, if less received, releases for the label. This concept recording gave way to forays into sleek blues (In Blue, 2002) and pop jazz (Wild for You, 2004). Allyson returns to the vocalese concept of Ballads with Footprints.
On this recording Allyson takes on modern jazz instrumental classics adapted for vocals. Represented here are Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma” (“Something Worth Waiting For”), John Coltrane’s “Lazybird” (“Lightening”) and “Equinox” (“A Long Way to Go”), and Wayne Shorter’s title cut (“Follow the Footprints”). The lyrics, all newly penned by Chris Caswell, give these songs new personality. Allyson is joined by scat-vocalese masters Jon Hendricks and Nancy King. Hendricks, who performs with Allyson on “Strollin’,” sounds every bit of his 85 years but still scats better than anyone on his trademark, “Everybody’s Boppin’.”
Allyson’s band is a beauty. Pianist Bruce Barth steers a nominal trio with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Todd Strait, joined by guests Frank Wess and Nick Phillips. Barth contributes playing on both acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes, the latter on a hopping version of Hank Mobley’s “The Turnaround” (“I Found the Turnaround”). “Follow the Footprints” features a muted Phillips and Frank Wess on flute in a light interpretation, as it could only be. Allyson is joined by Nancy King's smoky alto.
It is safe to consider Footprints Karrin Allyson’s best recording since Ballads. The inventiveness on display here only whets the appetite of fans expecting more from this productive artist.
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By C. Michael Bailey - allaboutjazz.com
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