The most remarkable thing about local singer Sanda Allyson, according to Mike Gibson’s 2009 Metro Pulse profile, isn’t that she’s a former model in a wheelchair who sings jazz and standards. It’s her voice. “Possessed of octaves-spanning range, Allyson nails the huskier side of alto, then warbles spot-on soprano; she scat-sings nimbly, just like Ella Fitzgerald, then holds a final note with sustain worthy of the Met,” Gibson wrote. “Yet Allyson never flaunts her gifts. Her performance is often reserved, never histrionic. And when the music does call for one of those scale-busting high notes that a less sensitive chanteuse would drive like a cold spike through one’s inner ear, Allyson soars into the pitch with the supple grace of a bird reaching the apex of its flight.”
So the upcoming release of Allyson’s album, As Is, is cause for celebration, which is exactly what’s planned for the CD release show at the Knoxville Museum of Art’s Alive After Five series this weekend. Allyson will perform with a slightly different (and expanded) version of the band that accompanied her on the disc. The sparse backing on As Is was provided by Keith Brown and Matt Coker on keyboards and Taylor Coker on bass; for the Alive After Five show she’ll be playing with an expanded all-star version of Donald Brown’s After Dance, the band Allyson has regularly taken the stage with the last couple of years: Brown (piano) and his sons Keith (piano) and Kenneth Brown (drums), Dave Peeples (bass), Mark Boling (guitar), Vance Thompson (trumpet) and Bob Knapp (saxophone).
As Is includes songs by Duke Ellington, Nat “King” Cole, and Norah Jones, as well as a version of “The Tennessee Waltz.” The Alive After Five show is Friday, June 25, at 6 p.m. at KMA. Admission is $9, $5 for KMA members and free for children 17 and under.