Interview: Allison Adams Tucker speaks languages of love of ‘WANDERlust’
Allison Adams Tucker

It’s one thing to say you can speak several languages. It’s another to show fluency in the lyricism of jazz-transformed standards and covers the way San Diego vocalist Allison Adams Tucker does with breathtaking vibrancy on her new album.

WANDERlust (Origin Records), was released Aug. 19 and features Tucker's angelic voice pushed further than ever before — on an abstract tight wire and in six languages, including Japanese and Portuguese, two of the hardest to pull off naturally.

Tucker also continues her love affair with the romance of traveling, for real and in her heart, last left off with an entirely different album, April In Paris two years prior.

On WANDERlust, Tucker’s celebrating a different kind of energy — albeit a more euphoric, spontaneous one — with a bunch of heavy-hitting conceptual jazz musicians everyone looks up to: longtime L.A. pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Scott Colley, drummer Antonio Sánchez, saxophonist Chris Potter, and guitarist Mike Moreno from New York, Brazilian percussionist Rogério Boccato, Brazilian jazz guitarist Romero Lubambo, and French guitarist Stéphane Wrembel.

Allison Adams Tucker’s currently touring the East Coast before heading back to Seattle. It'll be her first time back to the city in two years and her official CD release party will be held at Tula’s Jazz Club 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3 ($15 cover) followed by a fun after-party at North Bend’s Piccola Cellars Nov. 5.

Here’s her exclusive interview from Tucker about extending herself creatively and what to expect in the Seattle shows.

AXS: Your new album, WANDERlust, really showcases your affinity for languages within a fluid, complex instrumental jazz context. There are times where you transform your voice into a musical instrument, as on the title track. How has this third album transformed you as an artist and how far do you feel you’ve come from your previous effort, April In Paris?

Allison Adams Tucker: I set the bar high for this project and wanted to stretch myself with these arrangements — and Josh Nelson delivered just what the doctor ordered. The band naturally led me outside of the confines of what I might do normally, and I found myself exploring new vocal territory in subtle ways. April in Paris was a different animal altogether. This album represented a touring band that had just knocked out nine concerts in 10 days and a marathon recording session to commemorate it. The songs for April in Paris were very practiced by the time we recorded them, whereas the music on WANDERlust was very new to all of us, and we created something brand new in the studio. Magic can happen there.

AXS: Singing jazz vocals in one’s native tongue can be tricky enough. But you sing six different languages on WANDERlust, including Japanese. How do you incorporate the language part of the vocals with the lyricism and then the formidable jazz music brought forth by guys like Antonio Sanchez and Scott Colley?

AAT: First I of all, practice practice practice. In order to dip into any level of melodic improvisation in English or a foreign language, I have to be well-grounded in the lyrics and melody first — but that's a given. More importantly, with each language comes a vocal styling and personality that naturally comes out. I have experienced this quite often, but especially with this project: We originally planned to record all tracks in all six languages. Like, “Pure Imagination” in English, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, French, Portuguese. I did lay down tracks for a few of the songs in all six languages, and I was astonished at the contrast of how I sang in each language. I'm talking about the color of my voice, the mood, the phrasing. All the things I've learned about each of the musical cultures seeps into my expression. It's a great feeling, and amazing musicians such as Antonio and Scott set the foundation for making this a very fluid process.

AXS: How do you think you did on WANDERlust compared to April In Paris? Do you feel you’ve achieved a kind of milestone in your career, a leap in your vocal progress tackling on much more difficult arrangements?

AAT: I've always believed in the importance of challenging myself to grow and to evolve as an artist (and as a human). I think each completed album is a milestone of achievement, and I'm very proud of this one. “Pure Imagination” is actually an arrangement I collaborated on with San Diego pianist Danny Green several years ago. And, arrangements for some of the songs on the album happened spontaneously in the studio, which was cool. I woke up one morning with an arrangement idea for “A Thousand Years” I had literally dreamt about, and played around with it for several months before bringing it to Josh Nelson. He really made it shine! 

AXS: What’s the response been from critics and fans so far in your WANDERlust tour? Any surprises in the tracks that they’ve taken to versus those that stood out in your mind during the recording process?

AAT: I didn't know what to expect at all after the recording session, to be honest. I knew how I felt, but since this is such an eclectic album, the jury was out on how the general public would react. Response has been very positive, and favorite songs mentioned by writers, DJs, and listeners are very interestingly all over the board for this album. 

AXS: You return to Seattle for two shows, Tula’s Nov. 3 and Piccola Cellars in North Bend Nov. 5. What’s in store for audiences — the full gamut of your traveling discography, or mostly tunes from your latest?

AAT: We'll have two full sets of music at both Tula's and Piccola Cellars, so I'll highlight the journey of WANDERlust and also be sharing music from past albums and musical travels. The bands are different at both shows, so we'll be doing a slightly different song list as well. Tula's will be the official release show, and Piccola Cellars will be an "after-party" of my favorites.

AXS: How excited are you to play Seattle again and with such an amazing repertoire?

AAT: It's been two years since my last show in Seattle — I'm really looking forward to returning, and this time, with an album released by Seattle's own Origin Records. John Bishop and the team at Origin put out some fantastic music, and I'm thrilled to be part of it!