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Karrin Allyson cuts fresh and familiar songs for holiday collection

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She didn’t set out to write a Christmas song, but singer/pianist Karrin Allyson really couldn’t resist, given the season and her surroundings at the time.

Allyson was at the Los Angeles home of collaborator Chris Caswell, “and it happened to be Christmastime,” she recalls. “His wife was decorating all over the place. So we just decided, ‘We need to write a Christmas song.’ We were surrounded by all of these wonderful decorations, so we started describing what we were seeing and wrote a tune.”

The result: “Yuletide Hideaway,” the title track to her new 13-song album of originals and Christmas-season favorites.

Working with bassist Rod Fleeman, Allyson came up with the lyrics for the album’s other original, “Christmas Bells Are Ringing.” There is a fear of being too trite or corny when writing a Christmas song, she admits, but “then you have to throw that [feeling] away” and learn to embrace those characteristics should they emerge.

To illustrate her point, Allyson references “It’s Love, It’s Christmas,” which she recorded for Yuletide Hideaway.

She says, “I’m imagining [jazz pianist] Bill Evans writing these lyrics: ‘Dancing to the music low/the world covered white with snow/A kiss that won’t let go/It’s love, it’s Christmas.’ So if it’s good enough for Bill Evans, I figure, ‘Why not?’ ”

Allyson, a four-time Grammy nominee for Best Jazz Vocal Album and the Rising Star Female Vocalist winner in the 2013 DownBeat magazine critics poll, began sessions for Yuletide Hideaway this fall in Los Angeles. Then she moved on to Kansas City, Mo., before making a final stop in New York, where vocals and mixing were done. Was anything special done at any of the facilities to get everyone into the holiday spirit and make it seem more Christmas-like?

“No,” Allyson says with a laugh. “We were just trying to get through it. I guess every song has its own character, no matter what the theme is. You get into it from the downbeat, no matter what the theme or the circumstance. That’s your goal; that’s your mission.”

— By Chris M. Junior

Karrin Allyson on tour (schedule subject to change):

* Nov. 1-3: Catalina’s — Los Angeles
* Nov. 9: Cactus Hotel — San Angelo, Texas
* Dec. 14: Unitarian Church — Northampton, Mass.
* Dec. 17-19: Birdland — New York
* Dec. 22 and 23: Dakota Jazz Club — Minneapolis
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