By Request: The Best of Karrin Allyson allows listeners who have "discovered" her recently to sample some of her representative recordings throughout her career with Concord. The confirmation, and not the surprise, is that her voice and style have remained remarkably consistent, even as her career has blossomed, especially after her move to New York in 2000. The CD allows listeners to start her the very beginning with her composition that attracted the attention of the West Coast producer and announcer Stan Dunn, "Sweet Home Cookin’ Man," with its rolling blues vamp and, well, sultriness. Listening to her song from 1993, one realizes how natural her voice is, a natural expression of her personality, and for that reason it attracts with its unforced appeal. In addition, the influence of her Kansas City-based sidemen upon her early success becomes evident as they appear to perform out of the joy of it, even though they were recording professionally locally at Soundtrek Studios for marketing by Concord.
Not only that, but the early albums, perhaps not heard by her recent fans, include some outstanding performances, some of the most notable of her recorded career. Kim Park’s burning prestissimo alto sax solo on "Cherokee" bears close listening, its wow factor still intact, not to mention Allyson’s articulation of the words and scat singing at such a speed.... and their fast-as-a-speeding-bullet final unison phrase. Cannily, Allyson begins the song as a ballad, focusing on the meaning of the words of the first chorus before the abrupt acceleration. And then there is Allyson’s recording of "Sous Le Ceil De Paris," a recorded reminiscence of her Kansas City group, The French Connection, which included guitarist Rod Fleeman and accordionists Daniel Newton and Pat Bunch, though Gil Goldstein plays accordion on the Concord CD. Her "theme song," "O Pato," derives from her early Concord albums, as she recorded it with her usual musicians of pianist Paul Smith, guitarist Danny Embrey, bassist Bob Bowman and drummer Todd Strait. Allyson deserves credit for including other well-known Kansas City musicians on her albums, including trumpeter Mike Metheny and some of the last recordings of violinist Claude "Fiddler" Williams of the Kansas City Andy Kirk and Count Basie Bands of the 1930’s. Williams still sounded great on "Gee Baby" when he recorded in the 1990's.
Allyson increased her visibility even more by moving to New York and then recording with a who’s who of that city’s top musicians, including Mulgrew Miller, Bob Berg, James Carter, Steve Wilson, Lewis Nash, John Patitucci, James Williams and Peter Washington. And a wise choice of material that is, a singing of John Coltrane’s Ballads album drew critical and popular attention immediately. And deservedly so. The idea was entirely apt, as Allyson sang the lyrics for the music from Coltrane’s album that was written to be sung anyway. By Request: The Best of Karrin Allyson includes not just her recording from Ballads or "What’s New," especially poignant because it includes two now-deceased and sorely missed musicians, James Williams and Bob Berg. In addition, the compilation includes a previously unreleased recording intended for Footprints of Tadd Dameron’s "Next Time Around (Soultrane)," which Allyson sings as ruefully as she did with "In a Sentimental Mood" in 1993.
The problem or the advantage of marketing Karrin Allyson’s recordings is that, frankly, there is no "best of" Karrin Allyson. Everything she sings is memorable for one reason or another.