As a teenager, I was pretty sure I wanted to be a professional singer. Took years of voice lessons, sang with the local opera company and eventually went to college for vocal performance. I ended up hating all the diva that comes with being a female performer and dropped out of the music program the winter of my freshman year to study political science.
Great decision, but this little pedigree has saddled me with a super judgmental skepticism toward professional female musicians. So, when I saw that jazz singer Karrin Allyson—whose polished studio albums have won top acclaim—was coming to Bend as part of the Jazz at the Oxford series, I decided to put my judgy face on and check out all the hype.
And there has been hype. Allyson has made 13 albums since her career started getting hot in the early 1990s. Over the years she's been nominated for four Grammy Awards and has sung in the best venues in the country, including Carnegie Hall as well as a number of America's most revered jazz clubs.
She's known for her sexy basso nova sound and the breadth of music she takes on—blues, jazz standards and bebop. The question when I went to see her last Saturday night with a friend was whether she could deliver like she does in a studio.
So, from the moment she opened her mouth, I was walking that fine line between attempting to just enjoy some jazz and critiquing every little bit of her stage presence and tone. That lasted for about half the length of the first song.
She was pro.
Please forgive me for the following sentence: Her voice was like a warm caramel being pulled apart, so gooey and elastic and brown sugary sweet. She proceeded to lay down believable scat and perfectly timed smirks and finger snaps for the next two hours. Didn't hit a shaky note all night and was super comfortable on stage.
My friend and I were impressed not just by Allyson but by the intimate atmosphere the Oxford has managed to make out of its conference room in the lower level of the hotel. We had steamer clams, a beet salad and fancy drinks from 10 Below—basically, we were able to hang on to a feeling that we might have been in a much bigger city where this sort of cool scene happens all the time.
There are still two more acts to come this season. Highly recommend checking them out.
Jazz at the Oxford
The Oxford Hotel, 10 NW Minnesota Ave.
Mel Brown Septet
Three shows: 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22; 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23; 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23. $35 at bendticket.com<p>Tom Scott and California Express
Three shows: 8 p.m. Friday, March 15; 5 p.m. Saturday, March 16; 8 p.m. Saturday, March 16.
$49 at bendticket.com