Chicago-based vocalist Jackie Allen ventures into an eclectic mixture of blues, bop, scat jazz, funk, and R&B styles with an album featuring 10 original tunes, all written specifically for her by her husband, bass player Hans Sturm. Allen and Sturm have been working both together and apart since the early 1980s, when they began performing as a voice / bass duo act. Their latest collaboration, Rose Fingered Dawn, concentrates on telling the stories behind the lyrics, desiring to touch listeners’ emotions moreso than helping their audience to escape into a fantasy world.
The whispery strands of John Moulder’s weeping, bossa nova-drenched guitar riffs canopy Allen’s breathy vocals with a tender touch in “Dark Butterflies.” The guitarist’s treatment of the ballad has a poetic delivery, making the song feel special like it holds a precious meaning that is universally discernible. The words are abstract: “Lillies, from stem to blossom / Sliding out of the green silence … Through sweet chocolate / With riots of color left behind.” The sensitivity applied to the track makes it exceptional among the other numbers, as Allen’s vocals cradle the lyrics gingerly. Her soft timbres emit an affection that is palpable, as she caresses the slow-burning flames of “Moon’s on the Rise,” encapsulated in the bossa nova timbres of the lightly sprinkled percussions and flickering guitar strings.
Switching gears, the R&B swagger of the horns bopping along “Bel Air BBQ” sear a funky-slant in the grooves that fodders a spicy lick in the scatting vocals. Allen’s penchant for scat blooms freely in “The Laugh That Is You,” as the brisk pace of the drumbeats maintain a fancy-free shuffle that cloaks the listener in a sheath of optimism.
Brimming in R&B / funk trimmings, “Holy Man” brandishes a bluesy inflection in the horns, fringed in the gospel-like tone of Tom Larson’s keys. A weeping, flamenco accent returns to the guitar strings through “Sweet Dreams,” embossed in the smooth sonorous of Allen’s vocals, giving the ballad a silky texture. The torchlight ambience of “Steal the Night” brings out the warm temperatures of her vocals, carrying a sedate lament through the track that moves the listener to feel for the lyrics. The song is inspired by Dylan Thomas’ poem “Do Not Go Gentle,” about the ultimate end that comes to everyone’s journey.
Joining Allen on the recording are guitarist John Moulder, trumpet player Victor Garcia, drummer Dane Richeson, keyboardist Tom Larson, saxophonist Geoff Bradfield, bassist Hans Sturm, and trombonist Andy Baker. Allen has carved out a lofty repertoire as a live performer, being a featured artist at a number of music festivals and touring nationally from coast to coast. Rose Fingered Dawn is a culmination of her influences and experiences, favoring songs that move audiences emotionally and ultimately, profoundly.