Love Is Blue
Love Is Blue, is the follow-up recording to the critically acclaimed The Men In My Life, and further captures the vibe and mood which Jackie Allen is capable of evoking. The project once again features Jackie's touring ensemble in an all acoustic setting. The project was arranged and produced by Rob Mathes (Vanessa Williams, Tony Bennett, Rod Stewart, Carly Simon and Eliane Elias). Her quietly beautiful obsession with life, love and passion blossom into a full musical expression from the pensive opening track and holds ones attention throughout the duration of the recording. A complete album - front to back! ******** Jazz Times, September, 2004 By Christopher Loudon If, after last year's elegantly accomplished The Men In My Life, anyone needs further proof that Jackie Allen is a real comer in the contemporary canary sweepstakes they need look no further than the far more impressive new Love Is Blue (A440). As hybrids go, Allen is a rare breed. Her firm roots are clearly folk-rock (and, as evidenced here, her sound grows increasingly similar to Joni Mitchell's), but they are wedded to a keen jazz sensibility. She can take an overripe pop chestnut like the title track, still best known as a syrupy instrumental '68 chart-topper from Paul Mauriat, and remind us of the emotionally desperate depths of Brian Blackburn's lyric. Likewise, she rescues 'A Taste of Honey' from the brassy clutches of Herb Alpert (or the melodramatic bleating of Julie London) to deliver a bittersweet reading that is starkly, refreshingly honest. 'I'll Be Around,' too often performed with suicidal desolation, is here injected with a tiny glimmer of hope that better underscores Alec Wilder's heartbreaking eloquence; and Allen's 'Pavement Cracks' ably captures all the bleak brilliance of Annie Lennox's original. But what really lifts Love Is Blue off it's hinges are two Allen originals, both written with her screen-writer pal Oryna Schiffman. 'Go,' penned nearly a decade ago but recently refitted with new lyrics, is a cunning little one-act play about a woman with an obvious romantic bias, urging a male friend to end a dissatisfying relationship. Even better is 'Moon of Deception,' which (quite intentionally, I presume) sends up those moon-June-spoon tunes of old by recasting the moon as a cruel mistress. Dazzling. ****** 'The fine art of understatement . . . ' ***1/2 Down Beat '...musically sophisticated, artistically daring' Howard Reich, ChicagoTribune '...a sparkling performance' Don Heckman, L.A.Times ***** Colors can define both music and emotion. Passion can be red-hot, envy turns us green, and moods can downshift from sunny yellow to sullen gray. Music is also color-sensitive: white-hot solos, cool blues, and rainbows of colorful notes tantalize our senses. For this project, Allen has chosen to focus on the darker side of that most powerful of human relations, love. Hence the project's title, Love Is Blue, an evocative statement that implies as many yearnings and questions as love itself. An appropriate proclamation for a collection of songs that convey a less-than-perfect view of relationships, which even the most intensely in-love amongst us can nevertheless relate to. Her quietly beautiful obsession with life, love and passion blossoms into a full musical expression from the pensive opening track and holds one's attention throughout the duration of the recording. Love Is Blue's opening track, 'Lazy Afternoon' with marimba accompaniment, lays the groundwork for a fiercely intimate listening experience for the listener. The second track, 'Go,' was written by Allen nearly a decade ago; the song underwent a radical metamorphosis to reach it's current form. 'I didn't like the lyrics, but I liked the melody,' says Allen. 'I tried rewriting the song a number of times, and it never worked out.' Working with friend and screenwriter Oryna Schiffman, Allen reworked 'Go' into a darkly romantic tale of a woman who tries to give a male friend every conceivable reason to end a relationship he is in. Although the narrator speaks as an impartial judge, by the song's end it is clear that her advice is motivated by her own heart's yearning for the man in question. Allen and Schiffman also collaborated on 'Moon of Deception,' a love song that turns the stereotypical musings about moonlit beauty upside down and inside out. Opening with the lyric 'A writer with no pen, a watch that don't know when, a window without a view,' the song is not a peon to finding beauty everywhere by the light of the moon, but rather to the lies created in one's mind when enchanted by the moon's glow. 'It's about the deception that the moon gives us, and the lies suggested by the typical lyrics in countless songs that have been written about moonlight,' explains Allen. 'There are things the moonlight might make you believe, but they are rarely true.' Besides providing a theme for the project, the title track has a history with Allen, who recalls hearing an instrumental version of 'Love Is Blue' on the radio when she was a child. 'It was just a pop song, and the melody was played with this real cheesy harpsichord sound,' the singer recalls. 'I never knew the song had lyrics. Then I found out that the original lyrics to 'Love Is Blue' were in French, and the lyrics were beautiful and pure, and expressed a darker view of love than you find in most songs.' Although Allen recorded the song in English, she plans to sing it in both English and French when performing it live. The notion of a flawed romance is further explored on tracks such as 'Pavement Cracks,' an Annie Lennox song also heard on Lennox' own recent solo release, and 'You Become My Song,' a remake of Bobby Hutcherson's 'Isn't This My Sound Around Me' with new lyrics. Yes, despite Allen's dark outlook on relationships on Love Is Blue, the singer is in fact happily married and a proud new mother. Still, she says that marital bliss doesn't affect her ability to deliver the emotional goods on a sultry love-gone-wrong ballad. 'Being in love doesn't necessarily change things,' she says. 'These thoughts still pull at me, and I am sure they resonate with almost everyone.' This project once again features Jackie's touring ensemble in an all acoustic setting. With John Moulder - guitars, Laurence Hobgood - piano, Rob Mathes - Rhodes, organ, keyboards, Hans Sturm - acoustic bass, Dane Richeson - marimba, drums and percussion and Frank Glover - clarinet. The project was produced by Rob Mathes (Vanessa Williams, Tony Bennett, Rod Stewart, Carly Simon and Eliane Elias) with arrangements by Rob Mathes and Laurence Hobgood and mastered by Greg Calbi. A Wisconsin native, Allen was introduced to music by her father, Louis (Gene) Allen, a Dixieland tuba player who taught each of his five children to play a brass instrument (young Jackie's first instrument was the French horn). She attended the University of Wisconsin Madison as music major, studying under the venerated Professor of Bass and Jazz History Richard Davis, himself a prominent artist on 1960's Blue Note recordings. Allen is looking forward to getting out on the road and is planning her most extensive tour to date in support of Love Is Blue. Other Recordings Jackie's first recording for the A440 Music Group label, The Men In My Life, features songs made famous by the great male singers and singer/songwriters in both the jazz and pop genres. The recording debuted in the top 25 on the Billboard jazz charts and has remained there since it's release in the spring of 2003. Rick Kogan of WGN Radio calls it, 'An amazing, amazing CD'. Don Heckman of the Los Angles Times calls it, 'a sparkling performance'. Produced by two-time Grammy winning producer Ralph Jungheim, Jackie's previous solo recording Which? (Naxos), was released in 38 countries. Kirk Silsbee, contributor to Down Beat, Jazziz, Stereophile, calls Which?, 'as close to a perfect vocalist album as we're likely to hear this year.' Her duo album Landscapes-Bass Meets Voice (Red Mark Records) pairs her with bassist Hans Sturm. Dave Nathan (All Music Guide) describes her performance as, 'striking... her voice takes on more shapes and forms than one has the right to expect from the human vocal chords...' Her self-produced debut recording Never Let Me Go (Lake Shore Jazz) received glowing reviews in Down Beat, Jazz Times, Swing Journal and the Chicago Tribune and remained in the Gavin Jazz Chart top 20 for 13 weeks. The perennial favorite holiday album, Santa Baby and Autumn Leaves (both on RA Records) pairs Jackie with vocalist/pianist Judy Roberts. As two of Chicago's most popular female artists, their collaboration has inspired an annual series of SRO concerts. The Chicago Tribune calls Santa Baby, 'The most endearing of holiday albums'. Performances Jackie's extraordinary talent has taken her across the globe. She has toured Morocco as part of a cultural goodwill tour, Brazil with her voice/bass duo, and China where she was the only jazz artist to headline at the Beijing Music Festival. She performs frequently in Europe having appeared twice at the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Mittenwald and Reutlingen Festivals in Germany, and the Edinburgh Fringe and Scottish Double Bass Festivals. Nationally she has toured throughout the midwest and the west coast, appearing numerous times in Los Angles. She has performed at the International Association of Jazz Educators Conference in New Orleans, Chicago Jazz Festival, Ravinia and debuts at the Detroit International Jazz Festival this year. Teaching and more Jackie Allen is one of Chicago's most influential and respected jazz educators. She has taught many successful Chicago vocalists at Elmhurst College and at The Old Town School of Folk. She is frequently featured with university jazz ensembles as a guest performer and clinician including Roosevelt University, DePaul University, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Iowa, and Ball State University. Last year she was featured with the Muncie Symphony Orchestra for an Evening of Cole Porter. She co-produced and stared in the sold out benefit show, 'America 1941' featuring actor John Mahoney, known for his work on the hit TV comedy Frasier. She has served as a Governor of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) for two terms. Jackie is a Wisconsin native who grew up surrounded by music. Her father, Louis (Gene) Allen, plays Dixieland jazz tuba and she started out on the French horn before continuing on to study voice and jazz at University of Wisconsin, Madison.
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