Skip to content

Turning To Gold: Chicago Singer Alyssa Allgood Makes Her Cleveland Debut

Alyssa Allgood
photocredit: Faith Decker

Not long ago, I would receive several CDs a week by female jazz singers who hoped to be the next big thing. These releases announced themselves by their packaging: over-the-top glam shots on the front cover and credits for wardrobe, hair and makeup on the back, and they were almost uniformly dreary affairs.

Alyssa Allgood may or may not be the next big thing, but the Chicagoan who makes her Cleveland debut at BOP STOP Friday, is assertively not one of those jazz singers.

Allgood’s time is subtle and propulsive, her pitch unerring. On her excellent new recording From Here (Next Records, 2024), she sings with an admirable forthrightness and delivers lyrics with clarity and care—perhaps because, on this originals-oriented program, most of them are hers.

Allyssa Allgood From Here cover

As for eschewing the glamour of the jazz-singer stereotype, Allgood, 31, said, “I don’t even wear dresses on stage anymore. I wear, like, pants or jumpsuits, which seems kind of silly, but I’m very much making a point about looking like a modern woman who’s singing this music, and also choosing different kinds of things to sing about.”

If Allgood rejects the superficialities of jazz singing, she is unequivocal about her allegiance to the fundamentals. “I feel like I am like very, very much a jazz singer, and for me, what that means is I really identify as being a jazz musician first and voice is my instrument,” she told me on a video call.

“I’m very influenced, of course, by the Great American Songbook style, you know, Ella, Sarah, Billy, of course, but I’ve been very influenced by Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter and Dinah Washington.” It’s unusual to hear younger singers like Allgood namecheck Washington who crowned herself, “Queen of the Blues,” but Allgood cited her fellow Chicagoan for her ‘soulfulness and blues feeling that is part of jazz. I’ve been very influenced by that.”

Allgood knows her way around a songbook standard, but with the release of From Here just ten weeks in the rearview mirror, her BOP STOP setlist will lean heavily on the originals featured on that album. She’ll be joined by a hybrid Chicago and Cleveland group with dynamic young bassist Ethan Philion representing the Windy City, drummer Jeremy McCabe representing Cleveland and pianist Joey Skoch, who recently moved to Chicago from his hometown, in both columns.

Alyssa Allgood
photocredit: Faith Decker

Allgood, who recently received a master’s degree from DePaul University, herself teaches at the University of Illinois, Chicago where she directs the vocal jazz choir. “A lot of what I teach is that what makes jazz singing so different than other styles is that it’s very conversational. So that means that we want to have all of those nuances of our spoken quality. And I also teach from a place that lyrics are about expressing emotional content, but it’s also our way of expressing rhythm.”

Between teaching, recording, gigging on the vibrant Chicago scene and the occasional tour, Allgood’s spreadsheets are full. And the singer is deep into Google Sheets. “I’m a very type A person who’s always planning and doing stuff.”

Type A, But Not Type AABA

Among the non-musical stuff is a recent interest in distance running. Allgood just completed the Chicago Marathon, her first. And true to her personality type, she set an almost comically ambitious goal of breaking four hours that she was only 76 seconds from achieving. “Running and singing is a great combination in terms of lung capacity and breath support,” she noted.

Long training runs also provide valuable inspiration for compositions. “Turn To Gold,” which closes From Here, is one example.

“I actually was inspired to write that while I was on a run a couple of years ago in the fall, seeing the leaves just turn into that most beautiful shade of gold. There was something about that particular day–I’m not sure if I was going through something, but maybe just sort of thinking about change,” Allgood said. “And for me, very Type A, sometimes I feel like I can have a hard time with change, as I think probably all of us do, because it’s unknown, right? So for me, that song is a reminder to myself that although change can be unknown and uncertain, that it can often lead to something beautiful.”

Alyssa Allgood is in the early miles of the marathon course of her musical career, but keep your eye on her. Hers is a career that is well-positioned to turn to gold.

Alyssa Allgood, Fri., June 28, 8 p.m., BOP STOP at the Music Settlement. 2920 Detroit Ave., Cleveland, tickets $20 available here

NOTE: This article was written by a real human being. No artificial intelligence or generative language models were used in its creation.

Red beans and ricely yours,