Friday, Aug 20 2004 | 17:36

Alison Crockett’s debut solo album “On Becoming A Woman” on Sol Image is a sensuous soul tour de force.

Alison Crockett has paid her musical “Dues” in full. She is perhaps the quintessential nu jazz/progressive soul singer of her generation and yet you may not have heard of her — but you’ve no doubt heard her voice. On seminal recordings by King Britt, Blue Six, Us3, Landslide, John Wicks, Mathematics and a whole host of others, Alison’s voice has provided the velvety, sensual sound of tomorrow’s yesterday’s, a captivating tone which evokes both the music of the past and that yet to come. Dripping soul with generous helpings of jazz and blues (King Britt nicknamed her “Diva Blue”). Alison has taken her cues from divas of the present and the past such as Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Donna Summer, Diana Ross and Sarah Vaughn and so too has forged a uniquely personal and singular musical vision.

Alison decided early in her life to pursue a music career. Piano was her first love. “It just called me. I still feel like a pianist who sings.” However after winning several local vocal talent showcases during her high school years, it quickly became apparent that her voice was a rare gift. Alison honed her vocal skills at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA and then a master degree at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. Throughout her school years, Alison continued to build her reputation and gain a loyal following by performing regularly with notable local and national artists in and around her Washington, DC home as well in Philadelphia and New York.

While living and performing in Philly, she met up with dj/producer King Britt (formerly of Digable Planets) and recorded the now classic, “Season’s Change” for the groundbreaking Sylk 130 recording, “When The Funk Hits The Fan” (Ovum / Sony Music). She was also featured on four other genre bending tracks on the album including the first single, “Gettin’ Into It”. Billboard loved her “throaty, diva-styled vocals.”

After touring the US with Sylk 130, Alison relocated to Brooklyn, NY, where she continues to make her home and base of operations. Almost immediately upon her arrival an the New York scene, she began working with hip hop/jazz pioneer Greg Osby at the Knitting Factory for the 1996 What Is Jazz Festival, and at the Clef Club for 1997’s Mellon Jazz Festival. In 1998, she was invited to participate in the prestigious Thelonius Monk Institute Jazz Colony in Aspen, CO, where she appeared on the same stage with jazz luminaries Nnenna Freelon and Herbie Hancock.

Right around that same time, Geoff Wilkenson, co-founder of the UK based acid jazz outfit Us3 heard “Season’s Change” and became convinced he was hearing a young legend on the order of his heroes Shirley Bassey, Dianna Washington or Dianne Reeves. He embarked upon a feverish search to track her down and request that Alison became Us3’s first lead singer. Upon her acceptance, Alison traveled to London to write and sing on the album “An Ordinary Day in an Unusual Place”. “I learned a lot about writing on that record,” she says. “Geoff had ideas for songs that required me to come from certain thematic places that were not as natural for me. I really enjoyed the challenge and I’m proud of what I did.” The first single, “Get Out”, immediately shot to the Top 10 within a few weeks of its release in Japan. In support of the single and the album, Alison toured extensively in Japan and Europe with the group.

Throughout her tenure with Us3, Alison continued to write, perform and record on a number of interesting musical projects. Always looking to grow and remain fresh, she brought her unique sound and soulfulness to each new musical venture. To distinguish these side projects, she often recorded under her Sylk 130 pseudonym, Diva Blue. Under the Diva Blue moniker a 4-song EP, “Azure”, was released in the summer of 2001 on Brooklyn based micro-label Soulhead Recordings. The lead track off of “Azure”, an early version of the breakbeat influenced track “Alive”, began to create a buzz on DJ mix shows and in clubs throughout Europe. Almost overwhelmed by the response to track and near bursting with creative energy and song ideas, Alison could hardly wait to begin working on a project that would showcase the new music she was writing.

After playing years worth of “dues” as a featured vocalist, its “due” time for the world to experience Alison’s singular vision as a solo artist. Alison describes the songs as stylistically a cross between Jill Scott, Meshell N’degeocello and UK broken beat visionaries 4-Hero, but make no mistake this is pure Alison Crockett! She solely composed all of the music and lyrics on the album. Her brother and manager, multi-instrumentalist Teddy Crockett, handled production. Even in advance of its full release, the word has begun to spread about the album’s daring, power and fresh songwriting. The epic-like ballad “Like Rain” even reached number 3 on Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Winner’s 2003 chart on his legendary BBC Radio 1 programme. From the almost shocking drum and piano led wallop of “Save Me” to the final fade of “Nappy” “On Becoming A Woman” represents a scope of musical breadth not soon to be even attempted by Alison’s contemporaries. Alison knows that she’s tapped into something, “I really thought long and hard about this music, agonized over it, it was truly a birth-like experience and that’s why I named the album “On Becoming A Woman”. I feel like I grew in leaps in bounds as both an artist and a person making it and I hope that that comes across in the grooves.”

Alison Crockett “On Becoming A Woman” (Sol Image) is going to be released on September, 13, 2004.

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