Hot In Here?: Karrin Allyson shines at the Sheraton. 

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As the chilly rains of late fall soaked into downtown Salt Lake City on Monday, Nov. 10, jazz vocalist Karrin Allyson did just about everything in her sultry power to counter the cold with the sunny warmth of Brazil in the 187th performance of the GAM Foundation’s Jazz at the Sheraton concert series.n

The two-time Grammy Award-nominated artist’s latest album, Imagina: Songs of Brazil (Concord), is culled primarily from Antonio Carlos Jobim’s vast catalog. However, given Allyson’s eclectic background—she’s recorded nearly a dozen albums spanning the entire spectrum of jazz holding down duties as a singer, songwriter, pianist, composer and bandleader—her live shows are wonderfully varied and unpredictable.

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On Monday, Allyson interspersed enchanting samba and bossa nova rhythms with jazz standards, including Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,” John Coltrane’s ballad, “I Wish I Knew,” Nat Adderley’s “Never Say Yes” and her own bluesy “Sweet Home Cookin’ Man”—of which she noted, “Blues gets you through a lot. First you get them, then you need them.”

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Still, those sun-drenched Jobim classics stole the show. And although Allyson (whose first name is pronounced “Car-in”) did play a few of the lesser-known Brazilian standards—like the one she dedicated to her mother, who happened to be in the audience, “Estrado do Sol”—her fresh vocal takes on some of the most commonly covered Jobim tunes particularly stood out, especially the evening opener, “A Felicidade (Happiness),” “Desafinado (Slightly Out of Tune)” and “Double Rainbow.”

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Rhythm within Brazilian jazz is so central to the sound and drive of the music that often every instrument onstage added their own pops, bumps and beats to the sway, including Allyson’s vocals. Jobim as a composer always wrote with a particularly free structure around those intricately syncopated beats, allowing for the space needed for ample improvisation and skillful soloing—often performed by Allyson’s masterful scatting, playfully bopped off of the pounding bass or the thrashing of the percussion. When not seated at the keys, the songstress sauntered about the stage working out those contagious rhythms with her gyrating hips as her metronomic foot tapping could be heard adding just one more sound accenting the heart hammering pulsation of the music.

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An old line of praise all too casually bantered about in the jazz community concerns the artist’s ability to make any song their own—and there really is truth buried within the familiar quip. If, as a jazz musician, you fail to play the standards as if they were your own tunes, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re no good, it just means you have no style. And, in jazz, without style, you have nothing. As Allyson nailed song after song at the Sheraton—be it a bawdy blues tune, a ballad waltz or those spicy Brazilian classics—she proved that without a doubt she has what it takes: plenty of magic, plenty of style.

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GAM Foundation’s 2008/09 season continues through April. Visit JazzSLC.com for a complete list of performers. tttt

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