Music News & Reviews

Jazz Town: Emotional honesty is the key to singer Karrin Allyson’s success

Karrin Allyson
Karrin Allyson File photo

So many jazz singers are out there competing for your attention. But the really good ones stand out because they provide something extra. And by that, we don’t mean valet parking or drink specials.

The really good jazz singers have thought through the details of their presentation — the song selections, the arrangements, the personnel. But more than that, they don’t just sing the songs — they inhabit them. There’s believability there, an emotional honesty.

That’s the real secret behind the success of Karrin Allyson, who returns Friday to the Folly Theater. She’s a KC favorite who built a worldwide jazz career on experience she gained here — but best of all, she knows how to put together a complete presentation and how to inhabit a song, to make it stick in the listener’s mind.

This time around, the program features holiday material, but it’s not just a throwaway concession to the fact that it’s a December gig. Last year Allyson put out an album of holiday songs, “Yuletide Hideaway,” made with some of the Kansas City friends who helped her get started. It has the same care and attention to detail that mark her other projects — plus the vibe of some old friends making music together.

There aren’t many things in jazz better than that vibe, and it’s sure to be present in the Folly show, too. It’s just another detail that Allyson is getting right.


▪ Thursday is the seventh annual Musicians Appreciation Day at the American Jazz Museum, in partnership with agencies and groups including Truman Medical Centers, the Kansas Jazz Ambassadors and the Elder Statesmen of Kansas City Jazz. The offerings include free health screenings for musicians in the museum atrium from 5 to 7 p.m., a dinner at 5:30 p.m. and music with pianist T.J. Martley’s trio and Grupo Aztlan at 7 p.m.

▪ When Jayne McShann, daughter of Jay, and Bishop L.F. Thuston, nephew of pianist Pearl Thuston Brown, got to talking, an idea emerged. Why not put together an event that celebrates the parallels between jazz and gospel music?

That’s what they’ve done with their Christmas Gospel-Jazz Music Extravaganza, at 7 p.m. Friday at the Boone Tabernacle Church of God in Christ, 1317 E. 12th St. The Louis Neal Big Band and the vocal group Book of Gaia will perform, and there will be a well-informed panel discussion on those jazz-gospel connections with Bobby Watson, Gerald Dunn and gospel artist Aaron Mayfield.

The performances will be followed by a jam session. Tickets are $15.

▪ Trombonist and composer Brian Scarborough plays the next show on the Jazz Underground series at the Westport CoffeeHouse Theatre, 4010 Pennsylvania Ave., at 8 p.m. Thursday.

▪ The Blue Room also has tenor saxophonist Doug Talley’s quartet at 8:30 p.m. Friday. There’s a CD release party for singer Paula Saunders at 8:30 p.m. Saturday; her disc is “Introducing Paula Saunders.” The Louis Neal Big Band performs at 7 p.m. Monday.

▪ Take Five Coffee + Bar, 6601 W. 135th St., Suite A-21 in Overland Park (behind Von Maur), has the New Jazz Order big band, led by Clint Ashlock, playing the Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn “The Nutcracker Suite” at 8 p.m. Friday. Trumpeter Stan Kessler and guitarist Danny Embrey have stealthily assembled a band they call the Kessler-Embrey Conspiracy, with bassist Jeff Harshbarger and drummer Todd Strait, to perform at 8 p.m. Saturday.

▪ Highlights at the Broadway Jazz Club, 3601 Broadway, include singer Laura Chalk at 4:30 p.m. Friday, followed by singer Kelley Gant at 9 p.m.; and bassist and singer Bryan Hicks at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by singer Angela Hagenbach at 7 p.m. and trumpeter Stan Kessler with singer Kathleen Holeman at 11:30 p.m.

▪ Highlights at the Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd., include the group B Vibe at 9 p.m. Thursday, organist Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 at 9 p.m. Friday, organist Ken Lovern’s OJT at 9:30 p.m. Saturday and the Foundation 627 Big Band at 8:30 p.m. Sunday.

To reach Joe Klopus, call 816-234-4751 or send email to


The Karrin Allyson Quintet performs at 8 p.m. Friday at the Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St. Tickets are $18 to $50; call 816-474-4444 or go to Allyson will participate in a question-and-answer session for ticketholders at 7 p.m.