The Joan Baez of Jazz

A great tradition strives to keep itself young by discovering its inner Melissa Manchester

Allyson's Wild for You and Krall's new The Girl in the Other Room, largely co-written with Costello, don't answer the question with a clear yes or no. They both work about half the time, on slower stuff; the stabs at swinging newer tunes are too often clumsy. Allyson's high point is Melissa Manchester's "I Got Eyes," which has a nice lilt, but nothing jumps. Wilson's 2003 Glamoured also leaves the question in the air, once again suggesting desire to build a wider audience thwarted by a delivery too complex for full accessibility.

And yet. Norah Jones is widely perceived as a singer of jazz standards even though there's just one on each of her albums. And Jones's first CD was easy for her audience to "get," even if the tastemakers thought they got it wrong. Similarly, Krall and Allyson have untied a knot with jazz and made themselves easier to comprehend, while Wilson always seems tied too tight—if only she could tie one on like Ulmer on No Escape From the Blues. Maybe jazz singing is mutating toward a kind of folk take on pop, an innocence that accepts tradition extending beyond the aging rock hegemony into the past and then into the future. Where the Monkees sit down with Muddy Waters, and all the Elvises meet with all the Nat King Coles, and Miles Davis hears Hank Williams, and Melissa Manchester waits inside the heart of bebop.

Karrin Allyson: You know she knows.
photo: Randee St. Nicholas
Karrin Allyson: You know she knows.


The Village Voice Jazz Supplement: Crossing Over Everywhere

  • Crossover Realities
    Seeking ways to get heard and to grow, and more often succeeding at the latter
    by Larry Blumenfeld

  • Fleishedik and Milchedik
    Jazzing the classics and classing the jazzers from Jelly Roll Morton to Uri Caine
    by Francis Davis

  • Band in My Head
    How Mojo, Bitches Brew, and Butch Morris inspired a funktional African American family unit
    by Greg Tate

  • Darn That Dream
    Major tie-up on the one-way street from jazz to jam
    by Martin Johnson

  • Summer Jazz 2004
  • Or maybe not. Maybe this is just a last gasp and sentimental sigh before jazz singing becomes a permanently esoteric art form, or a kind of aural costume dragged out like the sequined jumpsuits of Elvis imitators, donned by junior Frank Sinatras and Harry Connick Jr.'s as they parade outside of history.

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