Sunday, January 18, 2015

Chicago-based jazz vocalist Alyssa Allgood shows innovation, maturity on new EP


The maturity that Chicago-based jazz vocalist Alyssa Allgood shows on her debut EP, "Lady Bird," belies her young age.

Allgood, who recently graduated from North Central College in Naperville, will celebrate the release of "Lady Bird" by performing Jan. 23 at The High Hat Club, 1920 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago.

The show starts at 9 p.m. and there is a $10 cover charge.

I had the chance to talk to Allgood about the new EP.

Q - Great talking to you again. "Lady Bird" is your debut recording. In sitting down to make the record, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? 

Thanks, Eric. It is great talking to you again, too!

My main goal with "Lady Bird" was to create a nice representation of my sound and my artistic approach to the music. Since I am new to the professional jazz scene .I thought it would be smart to create a recording that other artists and people could listen to in order to get a better understanding of who I am musically and to help legitimize me as an artist.

I think I accomplished this with my EP by including original writing, arranging and lyrics. My next goal is to use this album to get my sound out into the world and help land other performance opportunities. 

I have already gotten some great feedback about the recording and I imagine that I will continue working on this second goal for a while.  

Q - Is there a meaning behind the album's name?

There is a special meaning behind the album's name. "Lady Bird" is an old standard written by Tadd Dameron that I wrote lyrics to about finding freedom in music once you've learned to trust in yourself and be in the moment. This is always one of my performance goals and it is something I think I have become more comfortable with recently.

I know I will continue to develop this as well. So, the album name and product are symbolic of my own personal growth and freedom in my music.

I have some of the lyrics written on the inside of the album cover - "trust in your wings, just let yourself sing and your story will soar."

Q - I understand that the first sale of "Lady Bird" on CD Baby came from Japan. Does it surprise you of the impact and reach of your music?

Yes, it certainly does! I was pretty blown away that someone in Japan purchased my CD. I think it shows how easy it is to connect globally in our world. 

It excites me about the potential of connecting with a diverse and wide-ranging audience. It also excites me to think that people around the world may be interested in my music.

Q - You were named the Best Collegiate Vocal Jazz Soloist of 2014 in DownBeat Magazine’s Student Music Awards. What did that honor mean to you?

I think you nailed that question with the use of the word 'honor.' I was so incredibly honored and humbled to have won that award and receive that kind of prestigious recognition for my music. 

Winning that award was a wonderful way to end my collegiate educational experience and it helped me feel reassured in my abilities and my desire to pursue music professionally. It also helped me believe that dreaming big with my music is possible and it is absolutely what I should do.

Q - Who are your major influences and what kind of impact did they have on your music?

My two major influences are Janice Borla and Jack Mouse. I've known Janice and Jack since I was 12 years old, when I first attended Janice's vocal jazz camp at North Central College.

This camp exposed me to high quality musicians and the language of jazz at an early age. I went on to study jazz at NCC because of them and I received a great education working with them there.

The two of them helped me develop an understanding and love of jazz, which I always hope shines through in my music. Janice and Jack have significantly influenced my music because they have instilled a strong work ethic in me as well as a desire to never stop learning and growing musically. 

They are also incredible musicians themselves and have served as wonderful role models for me.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago area jazz scene and how do you think you fit into it? Do you have any favorite venues in the area?

I think the Chicago area jazz scene is a diverse musical setting that allows for creativity and making a living. I've found nothing but positivity and support from other musicians and that has made me think very highly of the community.

Although I am new to the scene, I think I fit into it by bringing in my own creative interpretation of the music and also showing my own support of other musicians. I am often trying to go out and see other people and support their individual music and approach to jazz.

Although I've never performed there, I think that The Green Mill is one of my favorite venues in Chicago. That jazz club is unique in that it enforces a strict no-speaking policy during performances, which I love!

I've also seen a few of my favorite performers there. I'll be doing my album release at The High-Hat Club and I had the privilege of singing there this fall. I think that's a great listening room and it's my favorite venue that I've performed at in Chicago. 

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations? 

One of my dreams is to do a big European tour. I've always thought it would be incredible to connect with people around the world through my music and I would love to travel throughout Europe to do so.

I think it would be great to have my music receive enough attention one day for that to be possible. I would also love to perform at a few of the big jazz clubs in the United States.

Collaboration-wise, I would love to work with jazz vocalist Cyrille Aimee on some kind of duo project. She is one of my favorite singers and I would be thrilled to work with her!

She is a great improviser, so it would be a lot of fun to do some soloing with her.