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Kirk Silsbee
DownBeat Magazine, July 2002

"I have no idea but this is the way I'd like theater singers to sing. Anybody who's coming from the stage could learn a lot from this. There's visual imagery to what she's singing, a certain kind of plaintive storytelling. I like everything about what she's doing: It's a pure, sincere way of singing. She probably has a lot more notes that she's not showing us, which is admirable. 4 stars."

Kirk Silsbee
The New Times Los Angeles, November 1999

"With the passing of most of the bankable giants of vocal jazz during the last 10 years or so, audiences finally have to pay attention to the younger practitioners who have quietly been honing heir work. This Saturday, locals get a viewing of Chicago's Jackie Allen, and it's an engagement that should go a long way in cementing a relationship between a worthy out-of-town artist and Los Angeles. Allen's current CD, Which? (Naxos Jazz), is an L.A. production, featuring a stellar band that includes saxophonists Red Holloway and Gary Foster, trombonist Bruce Paulson. pianist Bill Cunliffe, bassist Jim Hughart, and drummer Roy McCurday. It is as close to a perfect vocalist album as we're likely to hear this year.

Allen is well-known in Chicago, both as a singer and teacher. She's prized for her sure footed musicality: Allen knows her chord changes, sings in tune, works in the moment, and phrases with great rhythmic aplomb. Repertoire is often the Achilles' heel for vocalists, but Allen's choices are most often exemplary: Billy Strayhorn's "Day Dream," the Billie Holiday/Mal Waldron torcher "Left Alone," Jon Hendricks' clever text to Horace Silver's "Doodlin'," Bobby Troup's "The Meaning of the Blues." and Cole Porter's naughty "It's Bad For Me." (Porter also wrote the the yearning gem of a title tune that gives the album its interesting name as well.) Even when she handles a less-than-inspiring tune, like "I Was Alittle Too Lonely," Allen manages to invest it with something special. She's got a warm, intimate alto voice that conveys passion in an understated yet undeniable way. Likewise, Allen's got a sense of swing that's so second nature that it's discernible on her own "Admit It," a near-ballad in 3/4. It's no surprise then that she treads blues territory much in the same way that Peggy Lee did - not through imitation but with musical authority and genuine feeling. in so doing, Allen nicely skirts the white-black authenticity issue. She has everything, and you owe it to yourself to hear Jackie Allen."

Lloyd Sachs
Chicago Sun-Times, September 1999

"In a sudden turn of events, Chicago singer Jackie Allen found herself recording her second album in Los Angeles with seasoned pros she didn't know. The change in scenery and sound served her well - as did the five years since her locally made debut. Asserting her sophisticated musicianship, she comes across as a more fully rounded singer - one who seems incapable of a cliche. Responding to soulful solos by ex-Chicago tenorist Red Holloway and altoist Gary Foster, Allen is breezy but lyrically grounded on the uptempo cuts - her scatting on "My Romance" has uncommon depth. And the ballads - of which Billy Strayhorn's "Day Dream" is a highlight with its wistful, time-shifting, insouciant qualities - have real emotional body."

Zan Stewart
Los Angeles Times >

"Scintillating performances and interpretations. They prove Jackie Allen is one fine singer who definitely has something very worthwhile to share. Which? should help get the word out."


“Chicago vocalist Jackie Allen can be both vibrantly exuberant and tenderly touching… an excellent sense of timing and phrasing.”

DownBeat Magazine

“Allen makes good impression… by exercising the fine art of understatement… a model of lustrous tone and clear-headed energy, then eloquently waxes blue.”

St. Paul Pioneer Press

“You will not hear a better new singer - and that includes Cassandra Wilson - than Allen, a Milwaukee native now living and singing in the Windy City. She has a very appealing, wonderfully expressive voice, and her delivery is ultra-natural, assured, near-perfect. Allen never strains or forces or over embellishes or suffers lapses in taste.”


"[Which?] is a lovely showcase with 15 songs, old and new, such as 'Doodlin'', 'My Romance', and 'I Was A Little Too Lonely'. Well worth a listen."

Neil Tesser
Chicago Reader

"The textured readings she gives slower numbers and the power she attains at full throttle may take some listeners by surprise."

C. Michael Bailey
All About Jazz

"Jackie Allen’s Which? is the second vocal release from Naxos Jazz. The budget label broke the ice with Gail Wynters’ 1998 release My Shining Hour (86027-2). Allen’s breathy sensuousness is a good label foil for Wynters’ earthy purring. Both vocalists hold the impeccable Bill Cunliffe on piano, Allen also having him as band leader, arranger, and associate producer. She employs Grammy-winning Ralph Jungheim as her executive producer. The Naxos Jazz stable continues to accumulate major jazz talent with appearances by Red Holloway playing his no-nonsense tenor and Gary Foster his cerebral alto.

Differentiation. Jackie Allen’s voice is frankly alto, a reality that neatly works in her favor on the current collection of standards and originals. A snapshot of the cuts reveals a sexy, quirky “Too Hot For Words”, a smoky, smoldering “Doodlin’”, and an almost choral “Lost in the Stars”. Cole Porter’s “Which?” hosts a Red Holloway solo that showcases his 12-gauge blues sensibility and Roy McCurdy’s simply splendid march drumming. Allen’s own “Admit It” finds Foster waxing poetic is his own alto way. The torch of the disc is “I’m Just a Woman”, with lyrics and a deliver that would make NOW blanche, then blush (with a super Holloway R&B solo to boot).

Never Let Down. Jackie Allen finds herself in the company of excellent musicians and her considerable talent profits from the Naxos Jazz approach which has framed her wounded yet playful alto range with a warm ornament analog sound (Just check out the bass duet on “The Meaning Of The Blues” and Bruce Paulson’s humid trombone on “The Last Dance”). Recommended."

Howard Reich
Chicago Tribune

“Musically sophisticated, artistically daring… she knows how to utterly reinvent the most familiar tunes. The fluid scatting technique... rhythmic flexibility… unexpected phrasings she created; made these standards sound reborn. In addition Allen has a knack for unearthing long forgotten tunes… that deserve a better fate than they’ve received.”

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