October 2004

Jackie Allen - Love is Blue
A440 Music Group 4041
Released: 2004

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***

On her latest album, Love Is Blue, jazz chanteuse Jackie Allen explores the bluesy, sultry side of jazz singing. Right from the opening song, "Lazy Afternoon," which sums up the mood of this album admirably, the sensitive, dark, tragically romantic side of love is brought to the forefront. With a voice that straddles the boundary between alto and soprano, Ms. Allen sounds perfectly suited to interpret these not-quite-jazz songs.

One of the more interesting points regarding Love Is Blue is that it is not your typical all-acoustic jazz vocal album. It uses a Fender Rhodes electric piano, organ, and a variety of other keyboards (presumably synthesizers), along with both acoustic and electric guitars, all of which make for an interesting sound mix. Fortunately, all electric instruments are used tastefully, so they never intrude. But the real instrumental star is Laurence Hobgood’s piano. I’d not heard him before, but he demonstrates here that he is a superb accompanist.

Greg Calbi mastered Love Is Blue, so the sonics are above average. And while there isn’t much in the way of depth (though the soundstage is wide enough) its saving grace is that each of the few instruments used is set precisely on the stage, easy to pick out and follow. Tonal quality is more than adequate, but not perfect. The main drawing card of this album, the vocals, are handled wonderfully. Allen’s voice projects nicely through the mix, allowing you to follow her way of setting up a word or phrase.

Jackie Allen can be fairly numbered among the upper echelon of jazz singers working today. Her use of time in setting up her lines is handled very, very well. It’s obvious that she has both technical command and a true love for jazz singing. And, she has talent. Combined, it equals a singer well worth keeping an ear on. Love may very well be blue, but on this album Jackie Allen certainly isn’t.