Encompassing a variety of Styles, By Request: The Best of Karrin Allyson spans Allyson's recording life to date, from her 1993 debut, I Didn't Know About You, to 2007's Imagina: Songs Of Brasil, and features one of her top downloaded tracks, "Cherokee," plus a previously unreleased tune, "Next Time Around (Soultrane)."
Vocalist and pianist Karrin Allyson enjoys a rare relationship with her record company. She's not only been allowed to follow her creative impulses that have stretched her vocal prowess beyond the mainstream jazz realm, but she's also been such an esteemed member of the Concord Jazz imprint that she's recorded every single album of her career for it. Signed by Concord founder Carl Jefferson in 1993, Allyson has recorded 11 albums (all still in print) for the label-including her self-released I Didn't Know About You debut album that Concord later reissued.
On June 30, Concord Jazz celebrates Allyson's illustrious career with her 12th album for the label, By Request: The Best of Karrin Allyson, a 13-track collection that provides a remarkable overview of the musical journeys the thrice Grammy-nominated vocalist has embarked on in the last 15 years.
Produced by Allyson with her longtime producer Nick Phillips, By Request features songs that her fans have requested over the years at her live performances. "When I moved from Kansas City to New York nine years ago, I recorded Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane," says Allyson. "That was my first Grammy nomination which gave me new fans who began to discover the first seven albums I recorded. When I performed some of my earlier material in shows, they would tell me which ones were their favorites. The songs they requested are included here."
Phillips, Vice President, Jazz and Catalog A&R for the Concord Music Group, produced or co-produced nine of Allyson's previous 11 albums. He says, "Karrin is one of the best singers in jazz today. We've had such a great working relationship over the years. She has such a natural ease when she sings. She has a beautiful voice with a unique sound and a unique way of phrasing that lets her get deep into a song."
Allyson is pleased that her entire catalog has been documented by Concord. "That's very unusual to be with one label, so I feel really lucky," she says. "It's been one of the constants for me. I'm happy to continue that relationship. And to do a best-of album is great. I feel like it helps usher in a new chapter of my career, pays homage to the time before it-while also inviting new possibilities of creativity in this music for me."
One of the most noteworthy characteristics of Allyson's career is the diversity of material she has explored, which is fully represented on By Request. "Karrin has expanded the jazz vocal repertoire," says Phillips, who cites her ease and authenticity in both French and Portuguese as well as her embrace of the Great American Songbook, roots music, blues and jazz. "She is remarkably talented."
Allyson has written the liner notes to By Request, reflecting on each song in the collection. For example, in regards to "Moanin'," the Bobby Timmons-Jon Hendricks number that she recorded on her 2002 CD In Blue, she writes, "Who doesn't love, get, and somehow need to hear the blues? I wore out Lambert, Hendricks and Ross' Everybody's Boppin' album-'Moanin'' has always been a favorite tune and still is." As for the Brazilian-vibed "O Pato (The Duck)," from her 1999 From Paris to Rio album, she writes, "So many folks say that this is our hit-and we rarely get out of a show without doing it-it's a groove and we love playing it."
Another favorite on By Request is Ray Noble's classic tune "Cherokee," originally recorded on Allyson's 1996 Collage album. She comments: "This version is on the edge. I mean, it's seriously fast! Kim Park plays an outrageous sax solo and I am lucky to just keep up at this tempo-we all were! Being from K.C., we wanted to include some tribute to Charlie Parker, so here it is. It's been one of our most downloaded tracks."
The previously unreleased track included on By Request, "Next Time Around (Soultrane)," is a leftover from an earlier session. Allyson explains, "We intended to include this Tadd Dameron composition on the  album Footprints but could not clear the rights for the new lyrics in time. Luckily we have them now! I think it's one of Chris Caswell's best lyrics. Bruce Barth plays so reflectively here as does the rest of the trio."
By Request highlights Allyson's 11-album career. "I often say that my CDs are my kids," she writes in the liners. "I love them all for different reasons...all in all each one captures a point in time for me and my life."