Alyssa’s Debut Album is All Good!

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OUT OF THE BLUE / MOBLEY/ALLGOOD: Watch Me Walk Away (Dig Dis). COLTRANE/ELDRIDGE/NAZARIAN: Noticing the Moment (Moment’s Notice). CAHN/STYNE: It’s You or No One. SHORTER/ALLGOOD: Speak No Evil. RIVERS: Beatrice. SILVER: Peace. HENDERSON: If. MORGAN/SUGGS: Only a Memory (Ceora). TIMMONS/HENDRICKS: Moanin’. CHAMBERS: Mirrors / Alyssa Allgood, vocal; Dan Chase, org; Tim Fitzgerald, gtr; Chris Madsen, t-sax; Matt Plaskota, dm / Jeru Jazz JJR-5-CD

Jazz singer Alyssa Allgood, who hails from Chicago, chose to pay tribute to the classic Blue Note style in this, her debut CD. This, of course, means a funky, bluesy sort of jazz, the type that generally featured tenor saxists with organists. We get that here, but also a very fine guitarist in Tim Fitzgerald, and Allgood herself is a really swinging, creative vocalist who wrote the lyrics to four of the pieces on this disc that were originally instrumentals.

Allgood’s voice is of the type I would call generic female jazz singer: pleasant tone, good diction, good beat. What makes her distinguished, however, is her sense of “time” and her ability in both scat and vocalese. In those moments Allgood really shines, and it helps greatly that her backup band seems to rise to a very fine level of inspiration. I give particular nods to organist Dan Chase and guitarist Tim Fitzgerald, whose solos were consistently interesting and inventive. On the opening track, Chase swings almost as hard as my favorite modern jazz organist, the great Barbara Dennerlein, and he consistently plays with interesting harmonic twists in the breaks and turnarounds.

I heard a bit of Sheila Jordan in Allgood’s style, albeit Jordan mixed with a few splashes of Dena DeRose. I particularly liked her scat solo on It’s You or No One, wich was very nicely done. One feature of her singing, possibly influenced by Louis Armstrong, is the “terminal vibrato” she employs at the end of phrases on held notes, introducing a slow vibrato to make the voice waver slightly. I wonder if this is simply a natural quality of her voice or a conscious style; it’s difficult to tell. She is also very clever in being able to work around a relatively limited range (about a tenth) to sound effective in virtually every piece. Madsen is at his most effective playing tenor in Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil…but for the most part, this is Allgood’s and Chase’s show. Listen, for instance, to the nice groove the latter lays down in the intro to Sam Rivers’ Beatrice, and the interplay between them throughout the piece. This track also contains an excellent, laid-back solo by guitarist Fitzgerald.

On Horace Silver’s Peace, Allgood finds a way to spot her voice in the interstices of Chase’s organ solo. As she pointed out in the liner notes, “the fact that there aren’t a lot of singers in the Blue Note catalog also resonates with my identity of approaching the music like an instrumentalist.” This particularly comes to the fore in Joe Henderson’s If, which swings like mad in a hard-bop sort of way from start to finish. No two ways about it, this young lady can swing, and she even seems to provide inspiration here to Fitzgerald.

Sometimes, especially nowadays when rock and rap permeate our entire pop culture, how someone as young as Allgood came to embrace jazz as her medium of choice. Apparently, she fell in love with the music at age 12 when she attended the Janice Borla Vocal Jazz Camp (gee, and I only went to Girl Scouts at a child!). She continued to attend for the next eight years(!), working closely with such jazz singers as Peter Eldridge, Jay Clayton, Rosana Eckert and Madeline Eastman. Quickly establishing herself in Chicago, she recently led a group at the 2016 Chicago Jazz Festival where she drew SRO crowds.

One of the more salient features of this album is her clever reworking of each piece in new arrangements, with different intros and sometimes different rhythm from the originals. This is probably most apparent to the average jazz fan in Bobby Timmons’ well-worn Moanin’, which was a showpiece in days of yore for Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. Allgood has so reworked the piece that it alternates between a straightahead 4 and a pseudo-calypso beat, the highlight of the arrangement being her scat vocal with the tenor sax—obviously worked out in advance but still highly effective.

Alyssa Allgood is, at this writing, most assuredly the real thing as a jazz artist. This is a fine debut disc, and I hope her style continues to grow and expand in the future.

—© Lynn René Bayley

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