Interview with Karrin Allyson
Blue Note Milano - Friday, March 23rd 2007 – First set
by Eva Simontacchi
pictures: Nadia Pazzaglia
You've been so close to winning a Grammy with your album. I would like to ask
you something very personal. You've got very many qualities. Which quality would
you say is your strongest, the one that makes you who you are, that defines your
special personality and singing?
Karrin Allyson: That's a nice question. Well, I hope that it's variety
and our repertoire for one thing, you know, from brazilian to blues, from ballads
to be-bop to pop music, to French music, so that's one thing, and I can't say enough
about who I choose to play with me because I think that my musicians are very special
and hopefully the group that we create reaches out to the listener …
This was another question I wanted to ask you because when you were on stage
and you introduced your musicians, you said you have been playing with Mr. Rod
Fleeman (guitar) for 20 years while you hadn't been playing with Mr. Alec
Dankworth (double-bass) and Mr. Tristan Mailliot (drums), both from London,
for 10 years, and they're back on stage with you at present, here at the
This means you have a wonderful relationship with your musicians.
K.A.: I think so….
E.S.: And I think this is also an important ingredient
K.A.: I'ts a good point, because I feel I'm not
a singer who stands in front and is telling people what to do, you know, I'm part
of the band. I am the leader, but in a way that we know that it's synergistic, you
know…. I help you, you help me get through. It's like a family. It's very intimate
and very personal, and if you take care of them, they'll take care of you.
E.S.: So, you talked about two points. Give me
a third one, but it must refer to you personally.
K.A.: Well, I'm sincere in wanting to bring joy
and beauty and laughter and thoughtfulness to the listener. It's not about posing.
It's about reaching people. And that's what I hope happens.
This is the second evening here for you. Do you think language is an issue? I
mean, you were talking to the audience this evening, but most of the people didn't
seem to understand while you were trying to communicate.
K.A.: I don't speak Italian, and I wish I did!
I hope to, someday! But I could either just say: ok, song, song, song…. Or I know
that there are people like you out there who understand something, so I can reach
some rather than just assuming nobody can understand me, because that's part of
what I do. I like to communicate in between the songs too, and so I'm not going
to stop doing that.
E.S.: You have to go on doing it, absolutely.
It's wonderful! The audience mostly understand English, but they need slow-motion
and distinct speech probably (through the P.A. system it's never so clear).
K.A.: Well, you know, that's a good point, and
I'm glad you've brought it up. I'll try and do that.
E.S.: I'm sure the audience appreciates your
gift for communication a great deal, even when they are not understanding everything
100%. Maybe it could be a bit frustrating for you when you talk and ask questions,
and you don't get a response…..
K.A.: So…. You have to assume that they're with
you a lot of the time. I've learnt that after many years that you think: "Oh! I'm
not reaching them! So I'm just going to go in my shell." And sometimes we all get
in moods, and we can only give so much, especially on the road. It's very tiring,
especially for a singer. So it's tempting to sort of withdraw when things aren't
going the way you thought they should…. You know, the sound was kind of strange…it's
just that that happens! It's part of life, but you just have to keep reaching out.
E.S.: Apart from being mostly inspired by instrumentalists,
and by instrumental music, who would you say influenced you vocally? Or maybe if
not influenced, somebody you really like?
K.A.: There's so many! So I can just name a few:
Nancy Wilson was my first, you know, early Nancy Wilson, you know, Cannonball
Adderley/Nancy Wilson, Nancy King is one of my favourite singers.
I love her! Isn't she something? Oh!
She is indeed! She's gorgeous!
K.A.: Forget about it! She knocks me out, you know?
And I wanted to help spread the word about her because she needs to be known more.
She's lovely! She's my hero.
really like a lot, I like
stuff, I mean, there are so many great voices in the business, yet it depends on
what you do with it, you know… ‘Cause I don't think I got the best voice in the
world….It's not about that. It's more about how you use it. We have a saying, maybe
you have the same: "It ain't what you got, it's how you use it!"
E.S.: We have it too! Anyhow, I believe you've
got a beautiful timbre.
K.A.: Well, thank you! But it's not rangy. I'm
fine with it, I'm used to it……
E.S.: Which are the instruments or the instrumentalists
that inspire you?
K.A.: All the instruments! Besides the players
I've worked with, because they are very influential to me like Rod Fleeman,
and Danny Embrey, and Bruce Barth, a wonderful pianist, Todd Strait,
my drummer, Bob Bowman, so many players that I worked with. Other instrumentalists
that I like are Clifford Brown,
Thelonious Monk, and I love Carmen Mcrae too by the way...and there
are so many!
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Publishing Date: 26/05/2007