Jazz baby Karrin Allyson nested in Birdland to preview her new Concord CD “Imagina — Songs of Brasil.” Exotic and alluring, the Kansas City-based, gaminlike diva framed her repertoire with a sensual and earthy timbre that boasted an enveloping seductive edge.
Allyson balanced an infectious Portuguese delivery with the English lyrics by the late Susannah McCorkle for the Jobim classic “A Felicidade” (Happiness), set to a cool rhythmic bossa base. Allyson wasted little time setting the scene for ardent romanticism and faraway places.
For Jobim’s “Estrada Branca” (This Happy Madness), with English lyrics by Gene Lees, Allyson accompanied herself on piano, offering a lilting but quietly unforced interpretation.
The singer’s smooth alto does not have a wide range, and it is often dotted by an infectious rasp on top that is kind of flavorful.
The second half of her set moved into a familiar jazz terrain with a scat-flavored “Stompin’ at the Savoy” that featured Rod Fleeman on a rhythmically propulsive guitar solo. Then, prefaced by a thoughtfully tasteful Steve Nelson vibe solo, Allyson entered the terrain of Ellingtonia with “Sophisticated Lady.” With measured intimacy and a keenly nuanced sense of storytelling, Allyson defined the torchy grandeur of the Mitchell Parish lyrics.
For the closer, the singer took a seasonal romp with Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “It Might as Well Be Spring.” With free-wheeling fluency and a boldly bright tempo governed by drummer Todd Strait, Allyson defined the role of the jazz singer at the peak of her talent.