Within the balladic sub-genre of profoundly doomful vocal jazz, Sinatra’s brooding In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning remains the gold standard, with his near equally despondent No One Cares running a close second. Karrin Allyson, whose smoky sound is ideally suited to such material, plumbs the same depths but favors rumination over desperation. Allyson, for the first time playing piano on all of an album’s tracks, is less interested in self-pity than in introspective reflection on romantic longing.
Together with her longtime partner, guitarist Rod Fleeman, plus bassist Ed Howard, Randy Weinstein on harmonica, Bob Sheppard on woodwinds and the newest addition to her fold, drummer Matt Wilson, Allyson proves a master of mise en scène, staging 11 playlets that, though thematically gray, shimmer with tender vibrancy. As always, her playlist is as intriguing as it is discerning, with pillars of the heartache canon—“Goodbye,” “Sophisticated Lady” and the title track—augmented by such cunning additions as Paul Simon’s lilting “April Come She Will” and Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.”
Particularly stunning among this grand portrait gallery of wistfulness is Bill Evans’ gently evocative “Turn Out the Stars,” with its gorgeously poignant Gene Lees lyric, and Anthony Newley’s underappreciated gem “There’s No Such Thing as Love.”