Bardfly: John Allee blends Shakespeare with jazz


“Now entertain conjecture of a time – maybe it’s 1958, maybe it’s 1598, maybe it’s today…” With those words, spoken slyly over a bluesy, hipster jazz groove, John Allee draws us into Bardfly, an otherworldly, super-literate and supremely swinging realm that finds the veteran American stage and TV actor, singer-songwriter and all-around creative hyphenate fusing his dual lifelong passions for all things Shakespeare and jazz.

Showcasing his wide array of talents as a vocalist, composer, lyricist and dramatic performer, the eclectic 13-track set mines song verses from a wide swath of the Bard’s canon from Othello to Henry IV as a foundation for everything from blues, ballads and hymns to compelling spoken word and swingin’ ditties.

An award-winning author and composer of musical plays, the Los Angeles based Allee composed all the music for Bardfly and set Shakespeare’s lyrics to his fresh and original melodies while adding many of his own lyrics to dazzling dramatic effect, essentially becoming a co-writer with his muse.

The collection finds Allee backed by a fiery quintet of renowned players from L.A., including Mahesh Balasooriya (Arturo Sandoval), drummer Aaron Mclendon (Taylor Eigsti), bassist Dominic Thiroux (Kamasi Washington), tenor saxophonist Javier Vergara (Poncho Sanchez) and trumpeter Matt Von Roderick (Brad Mehldau).

Among dozens of stage credits, Allee’s career has included performances in several Shakespeare plays. In fact, Bardfly grew organically out of Allee’s role as Twelfth Night’s Feste the Clown in a theatrical mashup called Barfly Shakespeare, presented at The Federal, a nightclub in North Hollywood, CA. He was tasked by the director with coming up with a jazz-club vibe for the tunes and first landed on The Wind And The Rain, which he recast as an easy-swinging, hepster strut. That tune set the course for the rest of the album, which Allee serves up straight and cool with a bebop twist.

This article was produced with the assistance of the artist.