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A romantic evening with Jackie Allen

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    Posted: 01 Dec 2019 at 4:58pm

Over a career spanning more than three decades, renowned vocalist JACKIE ALLEN has recorded 12 CDs that have garnered wide critical acclaim. Downbeat Magazine said that her last album, Rose Fingered Dawn, displays "polished virtuosity... a shimmering paradigm of stylish and sophisticated jazz singing." Allen is now releasing her newest project, A ROMANTIC EVENING WITH JACKIE ALLEN: LIVE AT THE ROCOCO, a two-disc Blu-ray and CD set.
With her smoky and suggestive voice, distinctive phrasing, and improvisatory chops, Allen is a true jazz singer. A natural storyteller, she can interpret jazz ballads with great sensitivity and fluently transform pop tunes into the jazz idiom. As with Allen's other recordings, A ROMANTIC EVENING WITH JACKIE ALLEN presents a mix of musical styles, from classic jazz tunes to up-tempo swing numbers, soulful R&B, lush ballads, and jaunty sambas.
Allen is also an outstanding arranger. She adapted most of the tunes on this album with her own inimitable style and emotive approach to lyric interpretation. She and her husband, the top-notch bass player HANS STURM, have been making music together since the early 1980s. Sturm has performed with a Who's Who of well-known jazz artists, such as Eddie Daniels, Phil Woods, and Randy Brecker, among many others. Allen and Sturm are both distinguished musicians in their own right, and together they make a formidable musical enterprise. The two have teamed up once again to create this unique, two-disc collection, with Sturm producing the video portion of the project.
Although you can find a couple dozen videos on YouTube of Allen's performances, this is the first time she has captured an entire live performance on video. Fans can purchase just the CD recording of the music or the two-disc set containing the Blu-ray DVD of the live performance. The DVD also features interviews with Allen discussing the music, as well as interviews with the band and segments chronicling some of Allen's travels and performances around the country.
Allen and Sturm are originally from Chicago but have been living in Lincoln, Nebraska, for several years. Lincoln is also the home of the Lied Center, the leading arts center in Nebraska whose mission is to present distinguished artists in all art forms and genres from around the country and around the world. Ann Chang, the Center's artistic director, is a fan of Allen's and approached her to do a show around Valentine's Day that focused on romantic songs.
The Lied Center was expanding its performance venues and had recently begun hosting shows at the Rococo Theater in Lincoln. The Rococo is an elegant art space that was called The Stuart Theater when it opened in 1929. As with many old buildings, it went through several transformations over the years, from a movie theater to condominiums on the upper floors, before it was completely refurbished and re-christened in 1981.
With its restored marble and ornate chandeliers, Chang thought it would the perfect venue for Allen's show.With a beautiful location, the romantic theme of the concert, and, of course, Allen's sumptuous vocals, Sturm thought it would be a good idea to video the performance for release to NET, Nebraska's NPR television station. The project, however, took two years to be released. Sturm discovered that, unlike licensing music for distribution, obtaining the synchronization rights for the video was a far more daunting task. With all the rights finally secured, a shortened, half hour version of the video was put into the NETA system. NETA is The National Educational Telecommunications Association, an association representing 275 member stations in 46 states that, among its many services, provides one-of-a-kind documentaries to NPR affiliates. A ROMANTIC EVENING WITH JACKIE ALLEN has already been shown on several NPR stations across the country.
Allen brought her longtime recording band from Chicago to Lincoln for this performance. Besides Sturm on bass, the band includes pianist BEN LEWIS, who has been travelling the world lately with the Lt. Dan Band, which was founded by Gary Sinise to perform at USO shows, entertain troops, and raise money for disabled veterans; versatile guitarist JOHN MOULDER, who has performed with Eddie Harris and Donny McCaslin, among others; and percussionist DANE RICHESON, who is a world percussion specialist as well as a jazz drummer. For this special event, she also brought out BOB SHEPPARD, the Los Angeles-based woodwinds maestro who has performed with an astounding crop of A-list jazz giants.
Sung with the emotional honesty that Allen is known for, the tunes on this recording befit the romantic motif of the evening. Allen opens the CD with "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" that features a duet with Allen and Lewis playing stride piano. Allen's arrangement of the Ellington/Strayhorn classic "Daydream" has a buoyant, lilting feel with some interesting changes in meter. "Lazy Afternoon" has a haunting vibe that features the African mbira, also called the 'thumb piano,' with Sheppard on flute while Moulder and Sturm provide additional harmonic colors. Allen does a funky version of Billy Preston's "You Are So Beautiful," made famous by Joe Cocker. Sheppard really gets down on his tenor solo on Smokey Robinson's "The Way You Do The Things You Do." Arranged by Lewis, Allen simply nails the biting, tongue-in-cheek lyrics on the Rodgers & Hart standard "Everything I've Got."
Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years" opens with just bass and voice, then is joined by drums and Lewis using the organ setting on his electronic keyboard. Allen arranged "My Funny Valentine" as a samba. It features Richeson playing the pandera, a type of Brazilian tambourine. Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "This Guy" is the quintessential love song. Allen's intimate performance is enhanced by Moulder's classical technique on a nylon string guitar and Sheppard on flute. Allen closes the concert with "Nobody Does It Better," composed by Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager. It was recorded by Carly Simon as the theme song for the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, and makes it to almost all lists of the top romantic songs ever.
With its stellar musicianship and Allen's sexy and emotive vocals, A ROMANTIC EVENING WITH JACKIE ALLEN has the kind of intimate feel that pairs beautifully with a candlelight dinner and a bottle of good champagne.
A ROMANTIC EVENING WITH JACKIE ALLEN will be available in stores and online everywhere.

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