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April 2024
Vol. 23, No. 7

Featured Stories

Allison Adams Tucker Celebrates Three Decades of Music with RETRO TRILOGY

by Wayne RikerJanuary 2024

Allison Adams Tucker

Save the date—Sunday, January 7, 6pm—as multi-genre vocalist Allison Adams Tucker hits the stage at Humphreys Backstage Live, featuring her tunes from her RETRO Trilogy release, a 15-track compilation compartmentalized into three five-track EPs with the decades of the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s represented in all. She pays homage to the music she was raised on and the music that she first sang and performed. “My producer came up with the concept of rolling these out as three EPs, one for each decade, and have them be one album at the end,” she recalled in a recent interview.

Each EP zeroes in on the three decades of her evolved freedom of musical expression—the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s—ranging from Cat Stevens to Paul Simon, from Tears for Fears to Prince and from Beck to Elizabeth Fraser with Massive Attack. As Tucker explains it, “This album shows me stepping into music as an artist. These songs spoke to me the most; the full album is a three-part old school meets the digital age.”

Adams Tucker’s Retro Trilogy album.

One musical caveat is Adams Tucker’s inclusion of one foreign language track on each EP. “The schtick from my early years as an emerging jazz artist was to sing in different languages,” she says. “Because I love all kinds of music, and I did not want to be defined by that alone so the RETRO concept was born.”

“I love her versatility,” exclaimed radio host Claudia Russell, who will be the emcee for the big night. “This new album is such a creative reworking of songs that we grew up with…it’s so much fun.” The release party is being billed as a retro extra-sensory experience that will include a 3D-animated motion graphics synched to Matt DiBiase’s synth xylophone along with hula hoop artist performances. Attendees are encouraged to dress in their favorite retro 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s attire for a chance to win merchandise prizes.

There is one original tune included amid the cover tunes, “Wonderland,” co-written with guitarist Peter Sprague. “Allison and I wrote a couple of songs for the Retro project,” Sprague reflected back. “What a joy working with such a talented musician. We had similar thoughts on where the songs ought to go, and I think the final outcome is really beautiful. Allison and I have been working together for a bunch of years,” Sprague continued, “and she amazes me with her vocal sound and spirit. She has incredible pitch. One thing I love that she does really well is her ability to sing tricky little melodies just like a virtuoso flute player; that’s not easy to do. Her ability to pull this off adds so much to song arrangements.”

Peter Sprague

Sprague will be on board for the show along with bassist Justin Grinnell, who expressed his excitement in anticipation of the event. “I’m looking forward to performing with Allison; she’s an exceptional singer with a crystal clear tone and pitch and possesses the remarkable ability to sing convincingly in various languages. Additionally, she is known for her role in spearheading memorable events, many of which have become annual traditions, especially her Women in Jazz series, where in recent years my wife, Melonie Grinnell, and Holly Hofmann have graced the stage. Also, she’s been instrumental in organizing the long-running Brasil Jazz Festa. Her contributions to these myriad events have left a lasting impact on the music community.” Danny Green on keys, jazz ukulele artist and drummer Abe Lagrimas Jr., and DiBiase on synth xylophone round out the lineup backing Adams Tucker.

Green, who contributed many of the musical arrangements for the album, chimed in as well. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Allison for quite some time. We’ve shared many great experiences over the years as it’s been fun watching her evolve as a singer and bandleader. I’ve always admired her tenacity toward achieving her goals. I think this latest project really captures her musical vision.”

Many of those outside of the project who have worked with Adams Tucker have marveled at working alongside her on various stages. “I absolutely LOVE playing with Allison,” exclaimed percussionist Monette Marino. “She has a stunning, pure, and vibrant voice; she is a true entertainer. She not only dazzles you with her vocal prowess, singing in several languages, but she also educates you at her shows by often giving the history of a song and its composer/singer…I have learned a ton from performing with her.”

Danny Green. Photo by Sasha Israel.

Keyboardist Ed Kornhauser added, “Allison’s got a great and super varied book of tunes with some great arrangers therein. It’s fun to read down her charts while accompanying her.” Up-and-coming local pianist, Brenda Greggio, who is currently studying at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City, said, “I first saw Allison singing locally when I was around 11 years old. I remember how inspiring she was as a performer. Later, I had the honor of playing with Allison in her local Women in Jazz series a couple of years ago. She’s great to work with and is an amazing leader! She always makes the experience very personal when introducing facts or interesting things about each tune.”

In addition to Adams Tucker’s discography of four albums and three EPs recorded in San Diego, Paris, and New York, her voice can be heard on national TV commercials, as well as the video game The Saboteur soundtrack, singing French jazz in the company of Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Madeleine Peyroux, and others. She has toured in Japan, Europe, Mexico, and the US, including performances at the Blue Note in New York, Ronnie Scott’s in London, Herb Alpert’s Vibrato in Los Angeles, the San Jose Jazz Fest, East Hawaii Jazz & Blues Fest, Lucca Jazz Donna Festival in Tuscany and the Takatsuki Jazz Street Festival in Osaka. She noted Japan as a particular favorite to perform in. “Such an attentive and respectful audience that always makes me feel like a Queen…and I especially love the after show fan selfies.”

She’s had a circuitous journey globally as not only a performer but as a teacher as well, as she describes in detail. “After college in Indiana, singing in a new wave cover band in dive bars throughout the Midwest, and 10 years as a hairstylist in Indianapolis and Del Mar, my hubby and I decided to do a TEFL (Teaching English as a Second Language) certificate program in San Francisco and head to Japan for new adventures. I taught English to schools, corporations, and even the Japanese Self Defense Force (like our Navy) for four years. We taught in Korea for a month and also in Spain for several months before returning home to San Diego where I taught and directed an ESL program at MiraCosta College. Teaching things with music has always been a major component of learning for all my English teaching. When I decided to go back to my music performance career into the world of jazz in 2006, it felt natural to start teaching music too.”

“Also, I began giving private lessons to students of all ages, many genres, and many purposes,” she continued. “I’ve taught master classes at high school and college music departments and brought online teaching onboard during the pandemic lockdown. At the same time, I built a small home recording studio and have helped young students write and record a couple dozen songs to date, which I plan to release in a kids album in the coming year.”

Allison Adams Tucker RETRO CD release, Sunday, January 7, 6pm at Humphrey’s Backstage Live, 2241 Shelter Island Drive. With Peter Sprague, Danny Green, Justin Grinnell, Matt DiBiase, Abe Lagrimas Jr., and Audrey Fhoxx.

Tickets: 5F6A8F2E2A96

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