Much of Jackie Allen’s life and career has been spent in the mid-West. In Milwaukee she worked for a while in duo with organist Melvin Rhyne, sang regularly at the Wyndham Hotel, and also taught vocal jazz at the city’s Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. She has also worked often in Chicago and some of her accompanists at this concert are from there. With her husband, bassist Hans Sturm, she is now resident in Lincoln and this is the location for this live session (which was also videoed and is separately available). The venue is Lincoln’s recently refurbished 1920s Rococo Theater.
While much of Allen’s three-decade-long career has been spent working in venues where cabaret style singing was the preferred form, her skill as a jazz artist has always shone through and here it is vividly present from the opening bars of a briskly-paced What A Little Moonlight Can Do. From then onward, Allen’s song selection is exemplary, melding standards of the distant and near past with some from more recent times.
Although the material is familiar, none of these songs is overused. In some cases, such as My Funny Valentine, the treatment is unfamiliar; in this instance it is sung as a samba. Among the other songs are Ellington and Strayhorn’s Day Dream and Hamlisch and Sager’s Nobody Does It Better. Her treatment of Latouche and Morross’s Lazy Afternoon is simply gorgeous, setting a standard by which future (and past) performances of this sensual song might be judged.
Allen’s vocal sound is smokily seductive, her interpretation of the lyrics thorough, and her phrasing exceptional. Relaxed yet wholly assured, Allen is ably supported throughout by Ben Lewis, John Moulder, Hans Sturm and Dane Richeson. From these instrumentalists are some skilful solo moments, while Bob Sheppard is an engaging and intuitive collaborator. Excellent in all respects, this album should appeal to all who love jazz singing at its best.
What A Little Moonlight Can Do; Day Dream; Lazy Afternoon; You Are So Beautiful; The Way You Do The Things You Do; Everything I’ve Got; Still Crazy After All These Years; My Funny Valentine; This Guy’s In Love With You; Nobody Does It Better (51.34)
Allen (v); Bob Sheppard (ts, ss, f); Ben Lewis (kyb); John Moulder (g); Hans Sturm (b); Dane Richeson (d, pc). Lincoln, Nebraska, 2019.