Get this crazy baby off my head!


Jackie Allen

Jackie Allen - Tangled - 2006 - Blue Note

On her Blue Note debut (and eighth recording overall), vocalist Jackie Allen stretches her already crossover approach to where the seams show. Thank God. She is a fine jazz singer and has a way with ballads and standards that is her own to be sure -- and she records a couple of them here -- but her gift with more pop-oriented material is utterly distinctive and even innovative, since there isn't another singer out there who phrases like her. Tangled was produced with great taste by Eric Hochberg -- who also chaired her last session, Love Is Blue, and has played bass with everyone from the jazz stalwart Kurt Elling to one of the greatest crossover folk and jazz singers in history, the great Terry Callier. The set has a few standards, like Rodgers & Hart's "You're Nearer" and "Everything I've Got Belongs to You." But the standards on this program are -- heresy of heresies -- the very things that hold it back from being a pop masterpiece. She has proven over and over again that she can sing standards and ballads with the best of them. But her treatment of Van Morrison's "When Will I Ever Learn," which opens the album, is a wake-up call even to her many fans. It's revelatory and sounds effortless. It's a revealing and poignant treatment of one of Morrison's most overtly spiritual songs and most difficult to grasp hold of. Likewise, her read of her guitarist John Moulder and bassist Hans Sturm's "Cold Gray Eyes" brings Celtic, rock, and blues influences to bear in a dramatic, tough, and deeply emotive performance. Her own Brazilian-flavored "If I Had" is lightweight samba jazz in the verse, but the refrains are gorgeous. The title cut is full of beautiful electric guitars creating a nocturnal tension that is deceptively noir-ish. This is the kind of torn love ballad that expresses through the grain in her voice what the words -- though burningly direct -- can't begin to get to. The funky "Slip" is also an original that struts and slides with a tough groove. Her reading of Donald Fagen's "Do Wrong Shoes" jazzes up a tune in high-camp style that had a tougher edge as a pop-jazz number. The bookend track, Randy Newman's "Living Without You," is another argument for Allen's pop phrasing. She gets the underlying country-soul in Newman's song, and the sheer emotion that needs to be expressed in its lyric doesn't lend itself to the studied dramatic sentimentality in many torch songs and standards -- especially as they are sung in this day and age (usually by up-and-comers trying to prove their mettle before they have the chops, or by veterans whose careers are devoid of imagination or discipline and fall back on the most difficult material to try to gain a few more miles from the empty tank). It may take another record or so -- or a bona fide adult alternative "hit" selected by a radio programmer with some vision -- to convince Allen to go the direction she could go effortlessly and win herself a slew of new fans. © Thom Jurek © 2011 Rovi Corporation. All Rights Reserved http://www.allmusic.com/album/tangled-r837122/review

Heard Jackie Allen performing the Donald Fagen-penned "Do Wrong Shoes" the other day and decided I'd better check out "Tangled" - the fast-rising, Milwaukee-born singer's latest release. If you haven't heard the song - Allen sashays her way through a hilariously sassy and brassy take on the "you done me wrong" song like a modern day Bessie Smith. Punctuated by Orbert Davis' mocking muted trumpet, the song stands out like an updated and welcome return to a bygone era amongst the staid reditions of standards that clutter the atmosphere. Being a Jackie Allen neophyte, I wasn't sure just what to expect from "Tangled," and as such was somewhat taken aback when the rest of the recording sounded nothing like the Fagen song. Ranging from covers of Van Morrison and Randy Newman to songs from the Rodgers and Hart songbook to originals and embracing everything from gospel, blues and soul to folk and samba, "Tangled" is deep and multilayered, and reveals a singer casting a wide net into diverse waters. The title itself fascinates me, as I used to get into arguments with an ex about what she perceived to be "tangles" in my life and thinking. She found my inability to achive clarity of purpose troubling - I, in turn, believed that my bouts with self doubt and confusion were simply an aspect of the human condition. We'd all like to be devout and faithful and placid, but the shifts and turns of modern life lead us in many directions and make us the people we are: flawed yet striving for the divine. Appropriately, Allen's choice of tunes on "Tangled" display "tangles" in the relationships between lovers, family, God, nature, the rest of the world, and even ourselves. Beautifully produced by the seemingly ubiquitous Eric Hochberg, "Tangled" features Allen's inimitable band consisting of husband/songwriter Hans Sturm on bass, expressive guitar colorist John Moulder, and two of the finest keyboardists around in Laurence Hobgood and Ben Lewis - and their sensitive shadings shape the bedrock over which Allen's sweet and airy flights may hover. I'd also like to give a shout-out to drummer Dane Richeson whose superb work was accidentially left uncredited by the label. The gospel lament of Van Morrison's "When Will I ever Learn" starts things off with an emotional surge (Lewis' churchy organ work is a treat) and has become my theme song, while Moulder and Sturm's plaintive folk song "Coal Grey Eyes" chills like a plunge into the Northern Atlantic sea off a craggy Nova Scotia coastline. "You're Nearer" is a tasteful exercise in bringing Rodgers and Hart melodicism to a modern audience, while the Allen original "If I Had" (one of three co-written with poet Oryna Schiffman) shows the singer can form a conga-line when the party calls for it. The songs swirl and swim in and out of the center of my consciousness, and right now it is the title track that is encircling those aforementioned entangled synapse. Moulder especially combusts here with his bluesy, edgy fretwork. The soulful "Slip" (yesterday's favorite) is another Allen original that is almost Motown in its approach - with horns supplied by Davis and tenor saxman Steve Eisen; while the day-before-yesterday's fav - "You'll Never Learn" creeps uneasily under your skin and stays with you thanks to Lewis' cocktail piano trills and Allen's slow smoldering delivery. In yet another shocking change of pace, Allen desconstructs another Rogers and Hart number - "Everything I've Got Belongs to You" and the results register another success. "Hot Stone Soup" by Sturm, is a lilting lullaby to an ageing parent (in this case, his mother), while the bittersweetly romatic Mandel-Bergman/Bergman waltz "Solitary Moon" may be the best of the ballads and my new favorite (oh, I'm so tangled, aren't I?). Allen's wistful version of Randy Newman's "Living Without You" brings this profoundly trenchant collection to a close and, if trends hold, will probably be my favorite song tomorrow. Both orderly and fluid in manner and presentation, yet surprising in its quick shifts that encompass many directions, in "Tangled" Allen and her band have given the listener an empathetic and entrancing soundtrack to the travails and chaotic disorder we face every day in this transient, often beautiful and sometimes bewildering world. Review by & © Brad Walseth © http://www.jazzchicago.net/jackiea.html

Known predominantly as a jazz vocalist, Jackie Allen's "Tangled" is a great eclectic mix of jazz, pop, soul, Latin rhythms, folk, and blues. Donald Fagen's "Do Wrong Shoes", Rodgers & Hart's "Everything I've Got Belongs To You" and "You're Nearer" are definitely in the jazz mould. There are also great covers of Van Morrison's "When Will I Ever Learn", Randy Newman's "Living Without You", and several other unusual choices. Jazz Times in 2006 noted that "As hybrids go Allen is a rare breed. For like fine wine, Allen gets not only better with age, but also more complex... It's all prime stuff." Listen to Jackie's "Which?" album

STEELY DAN TRIVIA - According to Jackie, Donald Fagen’s "Do Wrong Shoes" had never been previously recorded. “Donald sent me a cassette of him singing and accompanying himself on piano. I loved it and decided to put a swing feel to it. It’s the most popular tune of the album when we tour.” Donald, speaking about Jackie said that “Jackie Allen ranks very high among all other present day singers. She gets the harmonies of the songs as completely as she trusts her way with time. Her phrasing is assured, suggesting a unique kind of tenderness. The emotional impact she conveys is extraordinary."


1 When Will I Ever Learn - Van Morrison 5:51
2 Coal Grey Eyes - J. Moulder, H. Sturm 3:43
3 You're Nearer - Rodgers, Hart 4:14
4 If I Had - J. Allen, O. Schiffman 3:26
5 Tangled - J. Allen, O. Schiffman 4:25
6 Slip - J. Allen, O. Schiffman 4:03
7 You'll Never Learn - Michael Dees 5:13
8 Everything I've Got Belongs To You - Rodgers, Hart 3:36
9 Hot Stone Soup - Hans Sturm 3:44
10 Do Wrong Shoes - Donald Fagen 3:16
11 Solitary Moon - A. Bergman, M. Bergman, Mandel 5:01
12 Living Without You - Randy Newman 2:56


Jackie Allen - Vocals
John Moulder - Guitar
Hans Sturm - Bass
Ben Lewis - Fender Rhodes, Organ, Piano
Laurence Hobgood - Fender Rhodes, Piano
Dane Richeson - Drums
Steve Eisen - Tenor Sax, Flute
Orbert Davis - Trumpet
Sue Conway, Suzanne Palmer, Yvonne Gage, Eric Hochberg - Background Vocals


A talented jazz singer based in the Chicago area, Jackie Allen grew up in Milwaukee and Madison. Part of a very musical family, she played French horn early on in addition to showing talent as a singer. She attended the University of Wisconsin, where she learned a great deal about jazz; among her teachers was bassist Richard Davis. By 1987, she had moved back to Milwaukee, where for three years she sang regularly at the Wyndham Hotel while joined by organist Melvin Rhyne. In 1990, Allen moved to Chicago, where she has performed regularly as a singer who falls between jazz and cabaret. In the early '90s, Jackie Allen recorded Never Let Me Go, her debut album for the Lake Shore Jazz label; a long hiatus preceded the release of Which six years later. © Scott Yanow © 2011 Rovi Corporation. All Rights Reserved http://www.allmusic.com/artist/jackie-allen-p165137

ALBUM NOTES / BIO [© http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jackieallen4]

Crossing over for a singer whose foundation resounds jazz was a relatively rare phenomenon back in 1994 when Jackie Allen recorded her debut album, Never Let Me Go. However, that didn’t dissuade her from finding common ground between the jazz and pop music worlds. Twelve years later, with Tangled, her remarkable Blue Note Records debut—and eighth CD overall—Allen continues to explore soundscapes that pay homage to both standby and contemporary standards while crafting originals that richly complement the covers. With Blue Note, Allen joins a stable of pioneering female vocalists—Cassandra Wilson, Norah Jones, Patricia Barber, Dianne Reeves—who appeal to both adult-oriented music camps. “My tastes in music now are not that much different than when I began to record",” says Allen, who lives in Indiana and has a strong base in Chicago, “although I wasn’t quite as adventurous then as I am now.” Writing in JazzTimes of her two earlier albums (2003’s The Men in My Life and 2004’s Love Is Blue, both on the now-defunct A440 label and that have been purchased by Blue Note), Christopher Loudon remarked, “As hybrids go, Allen is a rare breed. Her firm roots are clearly folk-rock…but they are wedded to a keen jazz sensibility.” His assessment of Love Is Blue, which ranges from a tune associated with Frank Sinatra to a number by Annie Lennox? “Dazzling.” Allen brings that same expressive power, heartfelt sparkle and stirring allure to Tangled, a 12-tune collection that ups the ante in her pursuit of singing soul into song. “I’m not too far afield from my earlier albums, but I am evolving and moving forward,” she says. “My music goes into many different directions, from the jazzy to the more refined that looks at the darker side of love.” As for the theme of the new disc, the title is apropos, she says: “I like singing about the complexities of relationships, the entanglements. That’s the glue that holds the collection together, the umbrella that spreads over all the songs.” Produced by Chicago-based bandleader/bassist/composer Eric Hochberg (who also produced The Men in My Life), Tangled features Allen’s core band of keyboardists Laurence Hobgood and Ben Lewis, guitarist John Moulder (whose multi-voiced six-string lines highlight the arrangements) bassist Hans Sturm (Allen’s husband) and drummer, Dane Richeson. The group brings two originals to the mix (the impassioned, rock-edged “Coal Grey Eyes” by Moulder/Sturm and the heartrending “Hot Stone Soup” by Sturm), while Allen offers three songs (collaborations with poet/writer Oryna Schiffman): the title track, “If I Had” and “Slip.” Old-school standards include two Rodgers and Hart numbers (“You’re Nearer” and “Everything I Got Belongs to You”), Johnny Mandel’s “Solitary Moon” and Michael Dees’ “You’ll Never Learn.” They are balanced by such pop-originated fare as Van Morrison’s “When Will I Ever Learn,” Donald Fagen’s “Do Wrong Shoes” and Randy Newman’s “Living Without You.” Song choice, Allen explains, was a collaborative undertaking among her, her band mates and Blue Note, with arrangements largely developed by her and the group. Tangled opens with the moving Morrison number given a gospel touch with a choir-like vocal arrangement. “This song has more depth harmonically than some of Van’s other songs we looked at,” says Allen. “Originally we recorded it with just the band, but when the production budget was bumped up, we went back in to the studio and came up the vocal arrangement on the spot.” The album closes with a contemplative take on Newman’s tune, given a beautiful balladic read by Allen. She says, “It turned out different than we thought. The way it’s arranged has a country feel.” As for the Fagen tune, given a jaunty treatment with sassy horns, Allen explains that it’s never been recorded. “We heard a cassette of Donald playing this just on the piano, and we decided to put a swing to it. He’s heard our version, and he likes it.” Fagen adds, “Jackie Allen ranks very high among all other present day singers. She gets the harmonies of the songs as completely as she trusts her way with time. Her phrasing is assured, suggesting a unique kind of tenderness. The emotional impact she conveys is extraordinary." The Rodgers and Hart tunes come from two distinctly different inclinations. The gorgeously rendered “You’re Nearer,” arranged by Hobgood, was learned by Allen from an early Tony Bennett album, while the upbeat, black-humored “Everything I Got Belongs to You” is a spunky, funky outing that former Blue Note singer Holly Cole once covered. Mandel’s “Solitary Moon,” with the tender calm gently buoyed by Hobgood’s solo and Allen’s dreamy wordless vocals, was once recorded by Shirley Horn (“I’m such a big fan of hers,” says Allen). As for “You’ll Never Learn,” arguably the most sumptuous tune of the 12-pack, Allen recalls hearing it as a swaggering swing version like Sinatra late in his career. “When I brought this to the session, everyone joked with me, ‘Are you out of your mind?’” she says. “But I knew there was something to this song. So I changed the phrasing, creating a darker Latin mood and we did this at the end of the sessions. Blue Note loved it.” The three noteworthy tunes Allen contributes were written with Schiffman while their respective sons, two days apart in age, played. “Oryna gave me a stack of her ideas for lyrics and told me to turn them upside down if I wanted,” says Allen. “From my jazz background, I can improvise melodies, so then we worked on putting her words and my music together.” They came up with “If I Had” that grooves with a Brazilian music vibe, the gripping blues “Tangled” (“It’s about laughing in the face of adversity,” says Allen) and the uptempo sexy/feisty “Slip.” Diverse in its musical scope, Tangled is jazz-infused, pop-charged and, to Allen’s way of thinking, in harmony with her musical life. She came up listening to the rock music of her siblings (everything from the Beatles to Emerson, Lake and Palmer), became attuned to the pop of Elton John and Billy Joel and grew up hearing jazz from her Dixieland music playing father. "Allen performed with keyboard great Mel Rhyne and studied in college with renowned jazz bassist Richard Davis, from whom she learned the standards as well as found wings via improvisation. (She’s committed to passing on what she’s learned as a teacher in her own right, currently educating up-and-comers at Chicago’s Roosevelt University, with previous classroom gigs at the Wisconsin Conservatory in Milwaukee; Elmhurst College, outside of Chicago; and the Old Town School in Chicago.) “The elements of jazz and pop have always been mixed in my life,” says Allen. “They all swing around in my head.” In 1994, when Allen began her recording journey, that jazz-cum-pop outlook may have seemed cloudy. Today the climate is different. Tangled shines. 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 Angeles. She has performed at the International Association of Jazz Educators Conference in New Orleans, with the Muncie Symphony Orchestra in an Evening of Cole Porter and at the Ravinia, Detroit, and Chicago Jazz Festivals. TEACHING & MORE: Jackie Allen, one of Chicago's most influential and respected jazz educators, joined the faculty of Chicago Center for the Performing Arts (Roosevelt University) to teach jazz voice in Fall 2005. She has taught many successful Chicago vocalists at Elmhurst College and at The Old Town School of Folk Music and 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. She co-produced and starred in the sold-out "America 1941" with actor John Mahoney (Martin Crane on TV's "Frasier") to benefit The National Academy For Local Schools and 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. 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.

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