KARRIN ALLYSON, Sheraton City Centre, Monday

Chalk it up to chance, circumstance or planning, but this year's jazz series at the Sheraton so far has carried a definite Brazilian flavor.

Karrin Allyson and her trio of musicians continued the trend Monday night with her own beautiful set, taking many of their numbers from their latest release, "Imagina: Songs of Brasil."

Studying classical piano and French, Allyson elegantly took the stage in a long, brown evening dress, picked up the microphone and starting singing in Portuguese — without even approaching the keyboard. The newest album's opener "A Felicidade (Happiness)" was the show opener as well, including some lyrics in English to help her audience catch the feeling of the tune.

She wasted no time letting her band members introduce themselves, especially Rod Fleman, who studied — much to the delight of the crowd — at the University of Utah. Todd Strait played drums, and Larry Kohut played the upright bass.

The group spends a lot of time playing live and the cohesiveness showed. It knew from long experience what the other musicians were up to while still keeping the live performance alive. Each number was efficient, allowing them to fit almost two-dozen songs into the two hour performance.

The quartet was not limited to only Brazilian-flavored tunes. They received a rousing response to a blues number early on and returned to that theme while fitting in several strong ballads along with the bossa nova and swing. Fleman had the most solo time and made the most of his experience, turning red-faced as he poured himself into riffs and technical fingering. But it was always clear that Allyson was both bond leader and featured performer.

Some singers wow audiences by soaring to legendary heights or plunging to the vocal basement, but Allyson simply and unpretentiously and effortlessly just sang. Vocal quality and perfect pitch make her a rare performer. She manages to emote with sincerity rather than show, and she has a vocal texture that makes her more than just another silky-smooth siren.

Oh and she can play the piano too, shinning on ballad such as "I Wish I Knew," from her John Coltrane tribute album.

The evening's highlight however was the lone encore song, "The Tree And Me," a wonderfully melancholy closer penned by Oscar Brown Jr.


E-mail: lc@desnews.com