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Karrin Allyson

Karrin Allyson at the Toronto Jazz Festival. 

Five-time Grammy nominee Karrin Allyson is a jazz singer and pianist whose comfort zone encompasses a range of genres, from jazz standards to samba to blues to folk music and more. She plays Blue Note Napa, two shows a night, Thursday, Jan. 12 through Sunday, Jan. 15.

Allyson, who grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and lived briefly in the Bay Area as a teenager, came to jazz after a varied musical journey. On the phone last week, she described studying piano throughout her childhood. “I really didn’t discover jazz until college,” she said. “I was into classical, of course, some pop music, some folk music, R&B, and I was in all kinds of bands, including a rock ‘n’ roll band.

“While I was working in these various groups, my classmates turned me on to jazz. I was very attracted to it, mostly because of the improvisational aspect of it, the total organic approach that it takes, and never the same twice. That’s primarily what attracted me.”

She highlighted Dinah Washington, Nancy Wilson and Carmen McRae as her greatest vocal influences. “I love a singer named Nancy King,”she added. “I love Nat ‘King’ Cole. I love Frank Sinatra. There’s so many. Satchmo, all the greats. We have so much to learn from every one of them.”

Over the past 25 years, Allyson has released 16 albums, including a tribute to John Coltrane, a “Brasil” collection and a “best of” compilation. Along the way, she covered a number of popular non-jazz artists, including Billy Joel, Simon & Garfunkel, Bonnie Raitt and The Beatles. Her latest album is 2015’s “Many a New Day: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers and Hammerstein.”

She was inspired to dedicate the recent album to the famed Broadway songwriters while watching a PBS television program. “One night while I was watching public television, “American Masters” came on and it was about Oscar Hammerstein,” Allyson said. “I was just reminded and struck by, first of all, all his wonderful lyrics. You hear about Rodgers and Hart a lot in the jazz world, but you don’t hear so much about Rodgers and Hammerstein.

“I just remember all these wonderful musicals that my mom took me to or that we saw on television. I ordered the box of DVDs from that program and watched all the movies and jotted down all the material where I thought I could make some different kinds of statements.”

Allyson said that with the Rogers and Hammerstein album she has come full circle. “At Holy Names High School in Oakland, California, that’s where I played Nellie Forbush in South Pacific.”

At Blue Note, she will be accompanied by Rod Fleeman on guitar and Jeff Johnson on bass.

Thursday, Jan. 12, through Sunday, Jan. 15, 7 p.m. (doors open 5 p.m.) and 9:30 p.m. (doors open 8:30 p.m.). $35-$45. Blue Note Napa, 1030 Main St., Napa. Info, 707-880-2300.

Heads Up

Alden/Vache headed to Silo’s

Napa Valley Jazz Society (NVJS) presents the duo of seven string guitarist Howard Alden and cornetist Warren Vache as January’s featured musicians in their Sunday afternoon Parlor Jazz Series. Alden is a widely respected and award-winning instrumentalist who is known for his swing-style playing. Vache, who is also frequently identified as a swing artist, has performed with numerous jazz greats including George Shearing, Bucky Pizzarelli and Benny Goodman.

NVJS producer Bill Hart said, “When I heard these two working together at an intimate Greenwich Village club, I was determined to bring them to our stage. Jazz fans will be in ecstasy, lovers of good music will become jazz fans.”

Sunday, Jan. 22, 4 p.m. $45 (NVJS members, $25). Silo’s, 530 Main St., Napa. Details at 707-224-5299 and

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David Kerns is a Napa-based freelance journalist. You can view more of his work at