Ben Allison headlines 2nd chapter of JazzSLC series
What's in a name?
The next two chapters in the JazzSLC series feature Ben Allison in October and Karrin Allyson in November.
According to genealogy records, the surnames Allison and Allyson are of English and Scottish origin, with links to the county of Yorkshire, England. There's also the idea that Allison and Allyson are derived from the surname Ellis, meaning "son of Ellis."
But neither of the esteemed jazz performers fits into those genealogical categories.
Allison's family tree has roots that can be traced to Russia. His surname is an "Ellis Island name."
As for Allyson, that's not even Karrin's last name, but her middle name.
Regardless, the two concerts will feature top-shelf musicians whose music has also defied rigid definitions.
In his Salt Lake City concert, the debut of his new tour, Allison, 45, the Connecticut-raised double bassist, will be paying tribute to the music of Jim Hall, an 81-year-old guitarist, composer and arranger, a figure of notoriety in jazz circles but largely unknown to casual fans of modern jazz.
In the late 1980s, Allison studied under Steve LaSpina, a bassist who was in Hall's band. He learned much from LaSpina but didn't think too much about Hall as his own career ascended. Recently, he had an epiphany after he began listening to Hall's records. "I realized how much he influenced me," Allison said. "That sounds kind of like my music."After listening to more and more of Hall, Allison decided to focus on Hall's compositions. "It's for selfish reasons," Allison admitted. "I love his music so much."
Remarkably, though he has met Hall many times, Allison said the older musician doesn't know about this tour based around his work and his ability to write "almost hummable" songs, with angular twists and a sense of quirky humor.
One month after Allison performs in Utah for the first time, Allyson will arrive as a returning favorite of the JazzSLC series.
Allyson, 49, is a singer who grew up in Omaha and received a scholarship to study piano at University of Nebraska at Omaha. While there, she was exposed to many genres of music and served a stint as the leader of an all-girl rock band. But jazz interested her far more than classical music."Jazz holds everything I find interesting," Allyson said. "It's soulful, intellectual, improvisational; it has humor and is introspective."
In 1992 she recorded her debut, "I Didn't Know About You," which was re-released on the acclaimed Concord Records, beginning a partnership that continues two decades later. Four of Allyson's albums (2001's "Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane," 2006's "Footprints," 2008's "Imagina: Songs of Brasil"and her most recent, 2011's " 'Round Midnight") have received Grammy nominations for Best Jazz Vocal Album.
" 'Round Midnight" was the first album on which Allyson played all of the piano parts, and her ability to play as well as sing with ache and melancholy elevates tunes written by Paul Simon (with her notable rendition of "April Come She Will"), Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Stephen Sondheim and even Charlie Chaplin. She keeps her scatting to a minimum, instead focusing on delivering the songs with a unique, surprisingly charming world-weariness. She wanted the music to be personal. "It's a late-night-listening album," Allyson said.
That bittersweetness sounds like it comes from someone who hails from gloomy, rainy Yorkshire.
Perhaps her name reveals more significance than she knows.
JazzSLC series Ben AllisonWhen • Tuesday, Oct. 16, 7:30 p.m.Where • Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake CityTickets • $25 at ArtTix.orgWeb site • http://www.benallison.com
Karrin AllysonWhen • Monday, Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m.Where • Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake CityTickets • $28 at ArtTixWeb site • http://www.karrin.org