Singer David Allyn joined Jack Teagarden's band in early 1940—just months after Frank Sinatra began singing with Tommy Dorsey. Both singers learned a great deal about phrasing from their trombonist bosses. When Sinatra left Dorsey in '42 to record as a solo artist at Columbia, Allyn went into the Army. After Allyn returned to the States in the mid-40s and recovered from battle shock suffered in North Africa, he began singing with Boyd Raeburn's band. [Photo of David Allyn and Jack Teagarden in 1959]
While Sinatra became a heartthrob in the late '40s and brought a new romantic naturalism to pop singing, Allyn did the same as a jazz singer—recording with Johnny Richards, Tommy Talbert, Lyle Griffin and Paul Smith. And then in the early '50s Allyn wiped out. Drug addiction led to check fraud, and his arrest resulted in a prison term for a good chunk of the '50s. [Pictured above: David Allyn]
When Allyn was released in '57, he still had his vocal chops. But times had changed and so had the sound of vocalists. Romantics were out and pop swingers were in—thanks largely to Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra. Meanwhile, opportunities for jazz singers were drying up as jazz instrumentalists excelled in the LP era and pop and r&b began to dominate radio and phonographs. By 1963, recording dates for jazz singers of Allyn's ilk were scarce.
David's evolution is documented on the new album David Allyn: Where You At?—1941-'64 (Hep), which features the singer in a range of settings, mostly before his incarceration in 1952. The album features many recordings that are out of print, including Soft as Spring (1941) with Jack Teagarden, Where You At? (1945) with Boyd Raeburn, Snowbound (1946) with Lucky Thompson and Did You Ever See a Dream Walking (1949) with the Paul Smith Trio.
Perhaps my favorite track on this set is It Can't Be Wrong (1949), with strings and orchestra arranged by Johnny Richards. Here David is at his peak in the '40s, with a thoroughly modern interpretation that's as caressing as it is beautiful. The set also includes both sides of a single recorded in 1959—Here's the Way It Is and Pleasant Dreams. [Pictured above: David Allyn]
The CD's last track—Where You At? from 1964—is a fascinating contrast to his first recording of the song in '41, the CD's first track. Backed by a big band for an album produced by Tony Curtis called This Is My Lucky Day, the song swings and punches and David is on the edge of it all the way through, with an improvised shout at the end—"where you at!" That was David—hip, brash and swinging. [Pictured above: David Allyn and Tony Curtis in the studio]
David died late last year. He was ahead of his time—but often the victim of a disconnect between his ambitions and reality. Where You At? provides a sampling of David's skills before his troubles began and offers further evidence of his uncanny ability to connect with hearts. [Pictured above: David Allyn in 2010]
JazzWax clip: Here's David singing Kim Gannon and Max Steiner's It Can't Be Wrong, the melody from the film Now, Voyager...