From Here
Release date: April 19, 2024
Label: Next Records

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.

What Tomorrow Brings
Release date: April 9, 2021
Label: Cellar Music Group

Daring and personal, What Tomorrow Brings is Chicago-based vocalist Alyssa Allgood's most sophisticated offering yet. Wielding her instrument with extraordinary nuance and depth, Allgood takes listeners on an introspective journey of growth and self-discovery in the form of eight refined interpretations of classics and four originals. Joining Allgood is a trio made up of Chicago’s finest including guitarist Mike Allemana, bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer George Fludas.

What Tomorrow Brings is Alyssa Allgood’s third studio release and reflects a couple years of tremendous growth for the vocalist. Allgood’s exciting new professional developments were heightened by the success of her previous album Exactly Like You (Cellar Live, 2018). Named “the vocal record of the year” by Chicago Jazz Magazine, the sophomore release propelled her to the upper echelon of great contemporary jazz vocalists, expanding her audience beyond Chicago from New York to Shanghai. Of course, the biggest change of all took place last spring, when the Coronavirus Pandemic changed life as we know it. “I’ve had a lot more time alone, getting to know myself better,” says Allgood: “Time to be outside, to read, and to deal with moments of change and loss. They’re all opportunities to grow closer to who we are.”

This time of soul searching is reflected on What Tomorrow Brings, the central message of which speaks to finding an openness to life’s challenges and developing the ability to embrace them as opportunities for growth and discovery. The selected repertoire has been ordered deliberately, giving listeners a strong narrative thread throughout that mirrors Allgood’s own personal journey. The substance of these songs reveal her deepening connection to life’s kaleidoscopic emotions, as she delves into the nuanced feelings of longing, regret, introspection, hope, courage, and love. “I hope the listener will feel the harder emotions at the beginning,” she says, “and then a shift about halfway through [right around the beguiling “Time Found” and “Bridges,” the haunting Milton Nascimento classic]. And then comes the sense that we’re getting into something uplifting – that even though what tomorrow brings is unknown, there’s still hope.”

Allgood takes inspiration from many of her musical idols including Abbey Lincoln, Dinah Washington, Carmen McRae, and Billie Holiday and particularly how they all funneled their considerable technique into making the words as meaningful as the melodies. Their example has steered Allgood toward greater nuance in service of storytelling. “I’m trying to make lyrical expression the focal point of what I’m doing,” she explains. 

Highlights include “This Bitter Earth,” where she bends notes and commands the rhythm to etch each twist of the dark/light lyrics. In her duo version of “For All We Know,” her rain-pure timbre and heartbreaking inflections dovetail with Mike Allemana’s genius for accompaniment. On “Passing Glance,” Allgood uses her lovely control of dynamics to bring the song into subtle bas-relief before a high-flying coda.

As her interpretative authority continues to flourish, she needn’t shout to tell every story; she can also whisper. On another strong cut, the Eastern-tinged arrangement of “Mad About the Boy” she does both. With liberal phrasing and tonal flutters, Allgood lets you see a raised eyebrow here, a rueful smile there – and finally, with daring swoops into the upper register, a level of passion that juxtaposes the cool composure the lyrics strive to maintain.

Allgood works here with three of Chicago’s most in-demand and highly skilled musicians, all of them many years her senior, and she stands effortlessly with them in this compact, thrillingly interactive quartet. The intimate instrumentation of guitar, bass and drums lends itself well to the proceedings, and the atmosphere is enhanced by the strong musical connection, built on trust, between the musicians. “These musical relationships have opened up my connection to and expression of myself in performance,” explains Allgood, adding, “I sing, listen and create from an honest place and my voice has found strength in the openness I share with my band and my audience.” With this offering, Allgood marks a time of major artistic and personal growth, and welcomes listeners to come along on the engaging journey with her. 

For From Here

For What Tomorrow Brings

TOM CUNNIFFE
JAZZ HISTORY ONLINE
“..Allgood covers an enormous area of intimate territory, and she communicates those feelings with stark, heartfelt interpretations.” Read the full review here.

C. MICHAEL BAILEY
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"It is satisfying to hear this talent bloom and take command, Allgood assuming her proper place as one of the finest jazz vocalists today." Full review here.

GWEN KELLY
HOT HOUSE
April 2021 Stay-In Tunes of Note. See here

CHRIS SPECTOR
MIDWEST RECORD
“... this is a real jazz vocal set that capably mixes the old and new and is bottomed by vocals that really cover the jazz waterfront.  Hot stuff for hot times.” Review here

ANN ALEX
BEBOP SPOKEN HERE
"... an enjoyable CD." Full review here.

CREE MCCREE
DOWNBEAT MAGAZINE
“While Allgood is in her twenties, she sings with a depth beyond her years.." Read the full review in the upcoming June 2021 issue of Downbeat Magazine

ROB LESTER
TALKIN' BROADWAY
“...lyrics get the deserved attention from Alyssa Allgood; she projects intelligence." Read the full review here.

RAUL DE GAMA
THE WHOLE NOTE
"With this, just her third studio album recording, Alyssa Allgood declares that she is comfortable in her own vocal skin and has also raised her game to become an artist of the first order." Read the full review in the July/August 2021 issue of The Whole Note.

JEROME WILSON
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"She works with a steady trio throughout this CD that enhances the bounce and groove in her voice, particularly guitarist Mike Allemana whose gentle picking and hard riffs really enhances the contours of the singer's sound and makes it glow." Read the 'Five Women Singing' article here.