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Music Review: Karrin Allyson – By Request

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Receiving a new album to review from an artist I've reviewed before — and liked a lot — is sort of like running into an old friend. I'm happy to see someone I've enjoyed spending time with in the past, and at the same time I'm wondering what they've been up to lately.

Karrin Allyson, the Grammy-nominated singer and pianist whose Imagina, Songs Of Brasil was one of 2008's best albums, is keeping busy in the best possible way. Her newest, By Request — The Best Of Karrin Allyson, is now out on the Concord Jazz label and will almost certainly continue her string of Top Ten charted albums. It also again serves notice that she's one of the brightest gems in the respected label's treasure chest of stars.

Although her newest brings her album count to an even dozen — all with Concord —  it actually contains a baker's dozen tracks, and every one of the thirteen is as tasty as anything you'll find on your favorite bakery's shelves. But it is a "best of" collection, so the singer's dedicated followers will find a lot of duplicates here. On the other hand, her choices for inclusion on the album were largely guided by requests from her fans (hence the title) so those followers will be happy to hear that she's taken their advice. And the one new track on the album, the previously unreleased "Next Time Around (Soultrane)," is a nice bonus too.

It's just one of the numerous good listens here, including several of my favorite standards. One of the best is "What's New," a song that found new life a couple of decades ago as the title cut of Linda Ronstadt's classic retro album. Allyson not only matches the vocal talent of Ronstadt, but also shows off her keyboard skills. The song also features some nice solos from Bob Berg's sax, although he gets a little funky at times.

Another elderly song that never grows old with me is Cole Porter's "Night And Day," and she does just fine with it. It was one of my favorites, along Ray Noble's "Cherokee," a song that I remember most as a driving big band hit for Charlie Barnet. Allyson's version starts with a deceptively soft and lyrical interlude that builds to a wild finish, and along the way we experience everything from Allyson's scat singing to Kim Park's astonishing alto sax.

I'd urge interested music lovers to follow the link for sounds samples, because there's lots more to like here. An outstanding collection from a singer and pianist at the peak of her career. Highly recommended.

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