Karrin Allyson: Many a New Day: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein

Why do jazz singers embrace so many songs by Rodgers and Hart yet so few-save the Coltrane-blessed “My Favorite Things”-by Rodgers and Hammerstein? While Rodgers’ music is accepted as consistently top-drawer, Hart’s lyrics are widely considered sharper, wittier and more intellectual than Hammerstein’s. Which is, in a word, hogwash. Yes, Hammerstein’s lyrics are often brighter and frillier, but they are in no way less skillfully crafted nor less sophisticated either in sentiment or structure. (Hammerstein’s work with Rodgers has also been tarnished with that most toxic of brushes, immense commercial success.)

At last, the Hammerstein portion of the Rodgers canon is getting serious, full-length appreciation, and Karrin Allyson, one of the finest jazz interpreters around, is at the helm. Accompanying Allyson is the similarly adroit duo of bassist John Patitucci and pianist Kenny Barron. It’s a heady feast, extending from the sweet lilt of “Many a New Day” to the embittered anguish of “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught,” and from the playful sauciness of “I Cain’t Say No” to the sage tenderness of “Hello Young Lovers.” There’s no room on this album for splashy solos or virtuosic grandstanding. The focus is squarely on sensitive, intelligent arrangements shaped around Allyson’s unique sound-slightly parched and gently tremulous-expressly built to exalt a spectrum of instantly familiar yet largely underappreciated gems. An exquisitely thoughtful trio album, it’s also an important one.