PORT ANGELES — Wrap up some of that sunshine
put it in your pocket for a rainy day
get your share of good lovin’
sometimes too much thinking can get in your way …
So Karrin Allyson writes in “Some of that Sunshine,” the title song on the album that comes straight from her heart.
Allyson, who brings her band to Port Angeles this Friday, has had an illustrious career singing jazz, samba, bossa nova, ballads — all songs written by some other illustrious artist. From Duke Ellington to Joni Mitchell, she’s interpreted other writers’ work, singing in English, French, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish.
Until now. “Some of that Sunshine” is Allyson’s first record full of her own songs, and it has received rave reviews.
“There are so many ways to savor Karrin Allyson’s artistry. Start with her voice, its rare clarity,” a DownBeat magazine critic wrote of the recording.
“I thought: Why not? What am I waiting for?,” she said in an interview.
Allyson, 55, is a longtime friend of Jolene and Doug Gailey, Port Angeles High School’s choir and band directors, respectively. Many years back Jolene, wowed by Allyson’s performance at a jazz venue, asked if she’d give her a lesson. Allyson responded with an enthused yes, and the friendship flourished until Jolene said: What would I have to do to get you to come to Port Angeles?
“Just ask me,” Allyson replied. Jolene did. Last December, she booked Allyson and her trio into the Lincoln Theater, the vacant movie house downtown. The Lincoln had reopened on two weekends, for performances of the locally produced musical “Snow White and the Five Housemates.”
Then, last month, Jolene said the city of Port Angeles notified her that the Lincoln wasn’t ready. The theater, closed for five years now, has yet to comply with the building code.
Jolene had to change venues. She was able to pull a fast one. Allyson and band will appear at the Little Theater at Peninsula College, 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd., at 7 p.m. Friday; doors will open at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets are $30 at Brownpapertickets.com — and at the door on concert night — with proceeds supporting the Port Angeles High School Choir program.
A daughter of Great Bend, Kan., Allyson now lives in New York City — on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to be exact. She’s a lover of the outdoors, however, eager to be in this corner of the country, to walk in the forest during the day and sing and play at night.
“I have an amazing trio,” she said of her pianist Miro Sprague and bassist Jeff Johnson, both of whom are featured on “Sunshine.” In concert Allyson sings, purrs and now and then sits down across from Sprague to play piano.
Her new songs — “Shake It Up,” “Nobody Said Love Was Easy,” “Right Here Right Now” — dip into relationships as well as current social issues. Known for her improvisational vocals, as in scatting, Allyson these days is into the storytelling aspect of a song.
Up on stage when everything is flowing: The singer said it feels like the best thing she could be doing with her time on Earth.
As Allyson travels from city to city, from Brazil to Japan to Seattle’s Jazz Alley, there are the sweet nights when the audience wraps her in an embrace.
“It’s not an easy life,” she said, so “you live for those moments when you make a connection with people.”
If Allyson had an artist’s statement, it would be about giving.
“I was brought up by both of my parents to try to do some good in the world, to give back,” said the performer, child of a Lutheran minister father and classical pianist mother.
When it seems like people in power are relentlessly taking, Allyson said, that is her time to demonstrate a different way. In this vein, Allyson praised the work the Gaileys do at Port Angeles High School.
“What Jolene and Doug offer is very valuable,” she said of their music program.
Then, for singers and other musicians, Allyson added some insight.
In the world of performance, “nothing stays the same. To last, to remain relevant to yourself and to the listener, is always challenging.
“If you make the music paramount, you’ll have a better perspective on things,” she said.
Don’t get bogged down by the business side. Remember what drew you to this work.
“You can make a life, not just a living.”
She puts it another way, back in her song “Some of that Sunshine.”
Nobody said it was gonna be easy
— you can’t live a life of dismay
take a walk in the moonlight
time is made of moments you can’t replace.
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.