With bold new album, Alyssa Allgood reveals more of her truth in 10 jazz originals 

Acclaimed vocalist and songwriter offers a new view From Here, due April 19 on Next Records, in company of international jazz stars John Patitucci, Geoffrey Keezer, Kendrick Scott and Greg Ward

On her exhilarating fourth album, Alyssa Allgood strides confidently into the next phase of her impressive young career. Her rich, clear contralto comes as no surprise, thanks to her previous recordings, but she has taken her phrasing, improvising, and sense of swing up yet another notch. And while Allgood has included an increasing number of original compositions on each previous disc, From Here — made up of nearly all original compositions — finds her at a new pinnacle of personal expression and emotional observation. 

“These songs are reflections of my journey — to understand and love myself more deeply, and to fully embrace my artistic vision as a bandleader, composer, and arranger,” says the Chicago-based Allgood. Those reflections concern such themes as embracing change, but also knowing when to stand pat; how to feel good about a breakup, and even better about finding love; the need to treat oneself with compassion, and the hard truth that even the hardships we overcome remain with us in small yet important ways.

Don’t think for a minute that the poetry of Allgood’s lyrics overshadows the propulsion and depth of her music. Sure, she taps into the vocal tradition of songful storytelling. But her immersion in the jazz aesthetic — with its emphasis on spontaneity and improvisation, and on compositions informed by a rich harmonic and rhythmic language — ensures that her messages swing hard too, and delight the intellect in the bargain.

Featuring some of music’s most lionized artists: GRAMMY winners John Patitucci and Geoffrey Keezer, dynamic drummer Kendrick Scott, saxophonist Greg Ward, and produced by acclaimed jazz vocalist Jeff Baker, ‘From Here’ finds Alyssa Allgood reaching a new pinnacle of personal expression, emotional observation, and artistic achievement. Staying true to her jazz roots, Allgood goes where few singers dare with an album featuring 10 original songs, boldly celebrating the traditions of soulful storytelling, spontaneity, and improvisation.  

Working with musicians of this caliber allowed Allgood to approach the recording with greater freedom than ever. In her words, “Their musicianship propelled me to take greater risks in the music and to lead boldly with confidence and conviction. Their sense of exploration and connection radiates throughout every track. Recording my original music with these extraordinary musicians revealed the power of believing in myself and working to bring my dreams to life” — assets that resound throughout the songs featured here.

The album springs to life with “Burn (For Betty),” a take-no-prisoners homage to Betty Carter, whose galvanic performances and self-determinative philosophy have been a source of inspiration for Allgood. True to Carter’s example, the track includes two ear-opening scat vocal solos; they bracket racetrack improvisations from Keezer and Ward, establishing a high-water mark for the entire album. Several songs speak to specific people and events in Allgood’s life, yet each message transcends the specifics in order to reach those listeners she’s never met. For instance, “Time Told,” a love song to her fiancé, stems from Allgood’s own experience in grounding love in patience and trust; but her realization contains a universal human truth, emphasized by Ward’s high-flying improvisation. “Turn to Gold” transforms a familiar trope — falling autumn leaves as a metaphor for loss — into a beacon for life’s next chapter, set to one of her loveliest melodies (and a particularly emotive solo from Patitucci).​

On the other hand, there’s the harmonically inventive “Still Searching” which, Allgood remarks, encapsulates a central theme of From Here: the journey toward self-compassion: “It shows the darker, more complicated part of that process, the questions, the struggles, the failures.” (Allgood’s soaring improvisation suggests she’s found many of the answers.) There’s the clear-eyed regret of “Above All Else,” which conveys the need to excise a toxic relationship and the value in having done so — another song drawn from her own experience but applicable to anyone who’s ever loved.  

But we also get the charming, deceptively simple “Brave Little Flower,” inspired by the improbable sight of a small blossom growing between the boulders lining the shore of Lake Michigan. It’s a parable about fortitude and empowerment, set to a rangy melody in waltz time — a song about “growing beyond where I was planted” — that Allgood now considers her signature composition. Then she employs her whip-smart sense of fair play on the sassy revenge tune “No Good,” which has become a crowd favorite in performance. To top it off, the album includes two 1960s standards, each of them freshened by the light reharmonizations and changes in meter of Allgood’s arrangements: the Broadway hit “On a Clear Day,” and Joni Mitchell’s ageless “Both Sides Now.”

 Allgood is quick to note that the album title has more than one meaning. “First, it refers to these songs coming from my heart,” she says. “It’s from this personal and vulnerable place that I share messages of love, strength, power and understanding — and also acknowledge the pain, struggle, and doubt that makes the journey a triumph.” But the title also speaks to the fact that this album establishes a “pivotal moment in my career and a major step in my musical and artistic development. This album is a statement of who I am as a modern jazz vocalist: everything that happens next will be defined from here.” 

Described by Downbeat Magazine as “assured and daring”, Chicago jazz vocalist and composer Alyssa Allgood stakes her claim amongst the most compelling singers in the modern jazz landscape with her exhilarating fourth album, From Here, her first recording on Next Records. Her three previous albums — What Tomorrow Brings (Cellar Music, 2021), Exactly Like You (Cellar Music, 2018), and her self-released debut Out of the Blue (2016) — trace a remarkable trajectory from a North Central College grad to a vocalist admired for the clarity of her instrument, the sureness of her phrasing, the range of her improvising, and the burgeoning depth of her interpretative skills.

 Allgood first made her name in such legendary Chicago clubs as the Green Mill and the Jazz Showcase, through residences at Winter’s Jazz Club — where she has delved into the songbooks of jazz’s classic divas (Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, Dinah Washington) — and at the internationally renowned Chicago Jazz Festival. Appearances followed New York’s famed Birdland and at Jazz at Lincoln Center Shanghai (China). She was a semifinalist in the 2015 Shure Montreux Jazz Voice Competition, where jazz icon Al Jarreau led the jury, before winning the Inaugural Ella Fitzgerald Jazz Voice Competition (2017) and the David Baker Memorial Scholarship offered through the Jazz Education Network (2022). Closer to home, she was a 2016 Jazz Improvisation Fellow of the Luminarts Cultural Foundation in Chicago and was named Best Jazz Entertainer in the Chicago Music Awards (2019). 

 Increasingly also known as an educator, arranger, and composer, Allgood is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Illinois Chicago, where she directs the vocal jazz ensemble and teaches private lessons as well as a jazz arranging course. She is a highly sought-after clinician and has presented masterclasses at many esteemed institutions including the Jazz Education Network Conference, the Illinois Music Educators Association, the Iowa Choral Directors Association, Anchor Music’s Vocal Jazz Academy, Jazzvoice.com, the University of Chicago and Drake University. She holds a Master of Music in Jazz Studies from DePaul University, where she served as a Graduate Assistant.

 

Tracklisting:

  1. BURN (FOR BETTY) 5:58
  2. YOUR WINGS 4:06
  3. BOTH SIDES NOW 7:05
  4. BRAVE LITTLE FLOWER 6:25 
  5. NO GOOD 5:15
  6. OTHER SIDE 4:20
  7. DREAM 4:36
  8. ON A CLEAR DAY 5:11
  9. STILL SEARCHING 5:37
  10. ABOVE ALL ELSE 3:45 
  11. TIME TOLD 5:41
  12. TURN TO GOLD 5:39

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