Jazz singer Karrin Allyson strives for authentic sound

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Todd Feedback/AP

When jazz singer Karrin Allyson prepares for a performance, she aims to sound as authentic as she can “without putting on a show.”

That can be difficult to pull off on stage, of course. A show is, after all, a show.

But Allyson delivers a natural sound at the microphone, the result of many years of late nights in jazz clubs, where she learned how to play with melodies – and listen for the creative spaces in tunes. On tour to promote her latest recording, “Round Midnight,” she performs tonight at the Dakota Jazz Club.

“You work really hard until the point where you get on stage,” Allyson told Kerri Miller, host of The Daily Circuit during a performance today at the MPR studios. “Then you definitely want to let it go.”

Allyson has been letting it go since her days at the University of Nebraska, where she studied classical piano and she sang in a female rock band. An interpreter of pop songs, she also performs Brazilian tunes and numbers from the Great American Songbook. Bebop numbers comprise about a fifth of her repertoire.

Whatever she sings, Allyson draws heavily on improvisation, bending tunes to suit her mood. It’s what separates jazz from all other forms of music.

“With jazz, you can play around with the notes,” she said. “We actually make use of our ‘mistakes.’ ”

On stage, the sound of experimentation sounds perfect.

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