Jackie Allen (musician)

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Jackie Allen
Jackie Allen (vocalist).jpg
Jackie Allen
Background information
Born (1959-02-19) February 19, 1959 (age 57)[citation needed]
Origin Milwaukee, Wisconsin
United States
Genres Vocal jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, composer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1993–present
Labels Blue Note
Website JackieAllen.com

Jackie Allen (born February 19, 1959)[citation needed] is an American jazz vocalist, composer, and educator. She has released nine records as a leader for labels such as Blue Note Records, Naxos Records, A440 Music Group, and Avant Bass. Influenced by jazz, folk, and pop singers, Allen is perhaps best known for interpretations classic jazz ballads ("bringing out the beauty of the lyrics" -Scott Yannow, All Music Guide)[1] and transformation of contemporary tunes ("her gift with more pop-oriented material is utterly distinctive and even innovative, since there isn't another singer out there who phrases like her" -Thom Jurek, All Music Guide).[2]


Born in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, and raised in McFarland, Jackie Allen first became interested in music through her father, Louis (Gene) Allen, an accomplished tuba player.[3] Growing up, Allen sang in choirs and played French Horn, but was not exposed to modern jazz until she attended the University of Wisconsin - Madison where she studied with Richard Davis, Joan Wildman, and Les Thimmig. Limited by the available majors offered at the time, Allen moved to Milwaukee where she performed five nights a week for four years in a duo with Mel Rhyne at the Wyndham Hotel.

She moved to Chicago in 1990 where she began to compose and self-produced her first release, Never Let Me Go, for the short lived Lake Shore Jazz label.[4] The recording rose into the top twenty of the Gavin Jazz Charts where it remained for thirteen weeks. This drew the attention of Grammy-award winning producer Ralph Jungheim who was looking for new artists to produce for the Naxos Records label. Jungheim brought Allen out to Los Angeles to record Which with first-call musicians including Red Holloway, Gary Foster, and Bill Cunliffe, who served as the musical director for the recording. The project was successful and the label sent Jackie and her group on an Asian tour, including an appearance as the first jazz artists to perform at the Beijing Music Festival.[5]

In the late 90's Allen again began enjoying the interactive possibilities in duo settings. She began a collaboration with pianist Judy Roberts performing weekly at the historic Carleton Hotel in Oak Park, Illinois. They started a series of successful holiday duet concerts that led to the release of Santa Baby in 2000, now in its 4th printing and listed as one of the top classical jazz holiday discs by Jazz History Online.[6] The duo released "Autumn Leaves" the following year. In 1999 she began performing in a voice-bass duo with Hans Sturm. They performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where Frank Proto heard the duo and invited them to record for his Red Mark label. Dave Nathan wrote of the recording for the All Music Guide "This album ups the ante for voice/bass combination. It demands serious and committed listening. Landscapes: Bass Meets Voice will leave most breathless." [7]

Since 2002 Jackie Allen has performed and recorded primarily with the same core ensemble including John Moulder (guitars), Dane Richeson (percussion), and Hans Sturm (bass) with the addition of either Ben Lewis, Laurence Hobgood, or Tom Larson (keyboards), Orbert Davis or Tito Carillo (trumpets), and Steve Eisen (woodwinds). She produced The Men in My Life with Eric Hochberg and it was picked up by the Chicago label A440 in 2003. The record was successful and the label signed her to do an additional recording, Love Is Blue, produced by Rob Mathes and released the following year. The A440 label folded in early 2005. However the success of the second recording attracted the attention of Michael Cuscuna and Bruce Lundvall and Jackie was signed to Blue Note Records. Tangled was released in 2006.[8] However she was dropped from the label after EMI/Blue Note was sold in 2007 to Terra Firma. In 2008 Allen was approached by the Muncie Symphony Orchestra to create a project for their 60th Anniversary Season. The result was the 2009 live release Starry Night that features Allen's band with the symphony in a program of star-themed tunes arranged by John Clayton, Frank Proto, Bill Cunliffe, Mark Buselli, and Matt Harris.

Teaching career[edit]

Jackie Allen has always been an advocate for music education and has taught continuously since 1989. She began teaching in Milwaukee at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in 1989 and stayed on the faculty until 1992. In 1991 David Bloom hired her to teach at the Bloom School of Jazz where she stayed for two years. In 1992 Michael Miles brought Allen to the Old Town School of Folk Music to expand their jazz and vocal offerings. At OTSF she taught private lessons, Introduction to Jazz Vocals, and the Jazz Singer Combo for over twelve years. Elmhurst College invited Allen to join their faculty in 2002 where she stayed until 2005 when Roosevelt University offered her a position. She taught at Roosevelt until 2008 and then taught private jazz vocal lessons and song writing at Ball State University, The Cornerstone Center for the Arts, and E.B. Ball Center in Indiana until moving to Nebraska in 2011. She has taught private lessons and song writing at Doane College from 2011 to the present and coached the jazz vocal ensemble and given masterclasses at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln in 2012. In addition to teaching in institutional settings, Jackie Allen has also taught an independent Torch Singing class as a community outreach project, helping small groups of adult students learn to sing in public.[9]

Over the years several of Allen's student's have gone on to have some successes in the music industry. Colleen McNabb studied with Allen at Roosevelt and went on to tour with organist Joey DeFrancesco and appears on his Authorized Bootlegs release on Concord Records. Kurt Neumann was a student of Allen's at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and came to prominence as the lead singer of the Bodeans. Other singers who have studied with Allen include Jerry Grillo, Eugenia Elliot, and Karen Marguth.

Touring (selected)[edit]

  • 2009: Beijing Music Festival (China)
  • 2008: Paris Jazz Summit (France)
  • 2007: Italy Tour (Faenza, Rimini)
  • 2005: Taiwan Tour (Taipei, Tainan)
  • 2004: Greece Tour (Thessaloniki)
  • 2002: Brazil Tour (Goiania, Pirenopolis)
  • 2002: Morocco Tour (Casablanca, Marrakech)
  • 2000: Beijing Music Festival (China)
  • 2000: North Sea Jazz Festival (The Hague, the Netherlands)

Discography (selected, as leader)[edit]

  • 2014: My Favorite Color (Avant Bass)
  • 2009: Starry Night (Avant Bass)
  • 2006: Tangled (Blue Note)
  • 2004: Love Is Blue (A440)
  • 2003: The Men in My Life (A440)
  • 2001: Autumn Leaves (RA)
  • 2000/02: Santa Baby (RA)
  • 1999: Landscapes – Bass Meets Voice (Red Mark)
  • 1999: Which (Naxos Jazz)
  • 1994: Never Let Me Go (Lakeshore Jazz)


External links[edit]