The Great Bend Jazz Festival will feature five-time Grammy nominee Karrin Allyson and her ensemble. In addition to being one of the most admired jazz vocalists and pianists performing today, Allison claims Great Bend as her hometown, said Robert Felt from the Jazz Festival committee.
The program starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at the Barton Community College Fine Arts Auditorium and the doors open at 6:30. Tickets are $15 and are available at the Robert Feldt Law Firm and A440 Music in downtown Great Bend or at the door. (Students will be admitted for $5.)
The event will start with a pre-show at 7 featuring the F-20 Jazz Combo. Allyson will be joined on stage by Miro Sprague, Todd Strait and Gerald Spaits.
Among musicians, Allyson is known as a great bandleader, with reviewers touting her emotional range, Feldt said. The Jazz Festival has been bringing professional musicians to Great Bend for the past 25 years. “We couldn’t to it without the support from the community,” he said, noting the Jazz Festival (www.greatbendjazzfestival.com) is supported by major underwriters CUNA Mutual Retirement Solutions and the Barton County Arts Council.
Allyson’s phenomenal career has included 15 albums and appearances at top jazz festivals and venues around the globe. She lives in New York City but was born in Great Bend and said she’s proud of her roots.
Her father, the Rev. Victor R. Schoonover, was ordained and called fresh out of seminary to be the third pastor at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in 1959. Her mother, Chrys Schoolover, was a psychotherapist, classical pianist and piano teacher and a member of Parnassus.
“Unfortunately, I barely remember Great Bend, as we moved from there (to Omaha) when I was about 1 year old,” Allyson said. Her father went on to be the pastor at the Augustana Church in Omaha for 30 years. Her mother continued to teach piano and went on to get her Master's in Psychology.
“I love coming back to the Midwest,” Allyson said. “I’ve been in NYC for almost 20 years now, hard to believe, but always look forward to going back to the Prairie. I think deep down I might still be a Prairie girl, but mostly a Nature lover in all its forms.”
Her newest musical release, “Some of that Sunshine,” is Allyson’s first all-original album.
“‘Some of That Sunshine’ is doing quite well. I’m proud of it and just thought it was ‘time’ to put an all-original project out there,” she said. “I get amazing feedback from fans and that helps, of course.”
As for the Grammys, Allyson has been nominated five times for Best Jazz Vocalist. Last year, Regina Carter, who played violin on “Some of That Sunshine,” was nominated for Best Improvised Jazz Solo for her work on the title track.
Asked about her recent gig in Hawaii and the prospect of catching the tail end of a Kansas winter, Allyson commented, “Hawaii was great — we had a lovely performance there and I also taught a masterclass. I’ve been going there for many years now as Tracy (her older sister, also born in Great Bend) has lived there for about 28 years.”
After that fun “family obligation,” Allyson is back in New York for a week-long engagement at Birdland and ready for spring.
“The players I’m bringing (to Great Bend) are wonderful, by the way,” she said. Pianist Miro Sprague is now based in Los Angeles but went to school in NYC/Manhattan School of Music, then later Thelonius Monk Institute in Los Angeles. Gerald Spaits (bass) and Todd Strait (drums) are both based in Kansas City, where Allyson lived and worked for years.
“The audience will love them!” Allyson said. “We’ll mix it up with material – not solely all originals but add some classics in there too. We look forward to being in Great Bend!”