Review: Jazz singer pays tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein

This CD cover image released by Motema Music shows “Many A New Day: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein,” by Karrin Allyson. (Motema Music via AP)

Karrin Allyson, “Many A New Day: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein” (Motema)

It’s easy to imagine Kansas-born Karrin Allyson performing a lead role in “Oklahoma!” or “South Pacific,” but she also happens to be a superb jazz singer with Grammy nominations for her last four non-holiday albums. On “Many A New Day: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein,” she strikes the right balance between respecting the source material and giving them a fresh makeover with her jazz arrangements. She uses her dramatic story-telling skills to portray a variety of roles from four musicals.

Allyson creates an intimate atmosphere with the help of pianist Kenny Barron and bassist John Patitucci, both distinguished jazz veterans who provide sensitive accompaniment as well as the occasional elegant solo.

She begins the album with the opening number from “Oklahoma!” — “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'” — which starts softly and then kicks into a soulful New Orleans jazz groove. Other “Oklahoma!” tunes include a lightly swinging “Many a New Day”; a sultry, slow tempo version of “I Cain’t Say No”; and a galloping “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” on which she throws in an extended scat solo.

Allyson keeps things interesting by putting her stamp on lesser known Rodgers and Hammerstein songs. There’s a sensuous rendition of the ballad “I Have Dreamed” from “The King and I.” ”You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” — a still relevant song from “South Pacific” that explores how racial prejudice is passed down through generations — is done as a slow blues track.

Allyson closes this engaging album by accompanying herself on piano on a heart-wrenching solo version of the waltz “Edelweiss” from “The Sound of Music,” as she once again delivers a masterful concept album.

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