Karrin Allyson Schoonover was born on July 27, 1963 in Great Bend, Kansas. She grew up in Omaha, and spent her senior high school year in San Francisco. In her youth she studied classical piano, sang at her local church and in musical theatre, and also began songwriting.
Allyson attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha on a classical piano scholarship; she majored in classical piano and minored in French. In addition to her classical-music studies at university, Allyson was lead singer for her own all-female rock band, Tomboy. She also developed an avid interest in jazz, performing both in a jazz swing choir at UNO and in her own jazz ensemble, which had gigs at various Omaha venues.
After graduating from UNO in 1986, Allyson moved to Minneapolis, and concentrated on her jazz career. In 1990, she moved to Kansas City, where her jazz career took off. In 1992 she recorded her debut album, I Didn't Know About You, which was so well received it was re-released on Concord Records in 1993. She subsequently recorded eight more Concord-released albums in Kansas City.
In 1998, she moved to New York City with her longtime partner, classical music radio host Bill McGlaughlin, whom she met in Kansas City in the early 1990s.
Allyson sings in English, French, Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish. The songs she performs are drawn from a variety of genres, including bossa nova, blues, bebop, samba, jazz standards, and other jazz modalities, and also ballads, pop standards, the Great American Songbook, soft rock, and folk rock. She has also recorded vocal performances of several instrumental jazz compositions, using both scat and vocalese techniques.
As of 2011, she has recorded 12 original studio albums, all under the Concord label, and in 2009 she released a career-spanning "best of" collection. Four of Allyson's albums — Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane (2001), Footprints (2006), Imagina: Songs of Brasil (2008), and 'Round Midnight (2011) — have received Grammy nominations for Best Jazz Vocal Album.
Allyson tours extensively, and typically spends “two days out of three” on tour, playing the major jazz festivals, concert venues and clubs of the U.S. and making repeated tours overseas — to Brazil, Japan, Australia and throughout Europe.
In addition to her four Grammy nominations, Allyson has received positive reviews from several prominent sources, including the New York Times, which has called her a "singer with a feline touch and impeccable intonation."
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