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“Her gift is utterly distinctive and even innovative … a masterpiece. It’s revelatory and sounds effortless.” (Billboard)
Long known for the enticing smoky quality of her voice and the natural sincerity of her interpretations, My Favorite Color is Jackie’s long anticipated follow-up studio release to her 2006 Blue Note recording Tangled.
My Favorite Color features two originals and eight standards, reaching from the thirties into the seventies. Harold Arlen and Truman Capote’s “Sleepin’ Bee” swings on tiptoe, replete with its verse and a perfectly melodic Ben Lewis piano solo. An organ and horn infused romp propels Joe Zawinul’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” into a hip soul frenzy. Jackie’s arrangement of Gershwin’s “My Man’s Gone Now” is reimagined as a dramatic modal voyage, featuring an eloquent bowed bass solo by Hans Sturm and a stirring John Moulder electric guitar solo. In classic ballad style, Oscar Levant and Mark Heyman’s “Blame It On My Youth” opens with a goregous extended acoustic guitar introduction that folds gently into Jackie’s profoundly sincere and wistful reading. Hendrix’ “Manic Depression” conjures up Bitches Brew with a Miles-esque muted horn solo by Tito Carillo jousting with Ben Lewis’ organ jabs and Jackie’s Dante’s Inferno scatting.
Steeler’s Wheel 1972 hit “Stuck In The Middle With You” (Rafferty/Egan) is treated to a groove influenced by Horace Silver’s funky hard-bop masterpiece Jody Grind. Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s poignant “A House Is Not A Home” is transformed into a nuanced waltz and re-harmonized by pianist Ben Lewis. Diana (Allen/Schiffman) is an original sweeping waltz, expressing the regrets of trading a free spirited bohemian life for corporate security. Stripping down the harmony of Mel Torme and Robert Well’s “Born To Be Blue,” Jackie’s bareboned arrangement magnifies the despair of the lyric. The disc closes with Jackie’s “Call Me Winter.” The beautiful abstract lyrics were composed with lines shared by the late Illinois Poet Laureate, GE Murray. “If you don’t know where you are, you’ve arrived.”
Allen’s voice is both crystalline and soulful.
This is four-hundred-dollar-a-bottle jazz, no cheap imitation. (Rolling Stone)
In the late 80s, Jackie lived in Milwaukee where she worked with organist Melvin Rhyne (Wes Montgomery Trio) for four years before moving to Chicago. There her career blossomed and she released CDs for independent and major labels including Lake Shore Jazz, Naxos Jazz, A440, Red Mark, and Blue Note Records. Jackie recorded three critically acclaimed CDs for A440 and Blue Note: The Men In My Life (2003), Love Is Blue (2004) and Tangled (2006). Her last release, Starry Night (2009), was recorded live with chamber orchestra and features star-themed songs penned by arrangers who have written for such legends and noted artists as Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, Doc Severinsen, and Bobby McFerrin.
My Favorite Color was originally intended to be a live recording, but the day before the concert Jackie came down with a rare case of laryngitis. “Fortunately the band and recording engineer were already in town and we decided to record all the instrumental tracks live on stage during our sound check just in case my voice didn’t improve. I managed to get through the concert but the concert recording was useless since my voice was a mess.” The instrumental tracks were left untouched for several years until they were discovered on a hard drive after a move. There were multiple takes of each song beautifully recorded by Steve Weeder and Jackie began working with Tom Larson to lay down the vocal tracks over the best of the instrumental tracks. “I had to anticipate the band, when normally we interact live in the moment, which was a real challenge.” Upon hearing Jackie’s version of “Blame It On My Youth” for the first time, multiple Grammy winning mastering engineer Alan Silverman remarked, “That was the most beautiful recording of that tune I’ve ever heard – and I recorded Dory Previn singing that in the 60′s.”
It may not be easy bein’ green, but Jackie makes the wait well worth it.