Beginning one's music career as a punk rocker at a Christian school in Indiana is probably not the most typical route to becoming a jazz singer. But it is the route Leucadia's Allison Adams Tucker (performing Nov. 21 at the Beach House and Nov. 23 at the Encinitas Community Library) has taken.
I just came full circle after the disco era and punk and rock," she said by phone earlier this week. I've tried it all and jazz was where I found myself most comfortable vocally."
She's issuing her first CD this weekend as well, Come With Me." It's a collection of jazz and Latin standards, as well as one of her own compositions, co-produced with local jazz luminary Peter Sprague (who also plays guitar on several tracks).
While she's a San Diego native and has lived in Leucadia for the past eight years, Tucker has spent a lot of time living elsewhere. There were the eight years in Indiana, both while attending Anderson University and in the years after, when she went through her punk and new wave period. She fronted a band that plied the Midwestern circuit ---- My band was kind of a mainstream cover band, playing new wave pop-rock: 'Til Tuesday, U2, A Flock of Seagulls, Sting."
But after four years of styling hair by day and singing big-hair music by night, Tucker said she and her husband decided they wanted to try something different.
So, in another of her typically atypical moves, I went into teaching and moved to Japan with my husband. ... We taught English for four years in Japan and for about four months in Spain."
Tucker said that on her return to the States, she wasn't sure what she wanted to do. She began teaching English as a second language at MiraCosta College. And while she really enjoyed the challenges of teaching ESL classes, after five years at MiraCosta she knew what she wanted to spend her life doing. And so three years ago, she quit teaching to focus on singing ---- jazz in particular. The Friday before Thanksgiving was her last day.
If she came to jazz performance later in life than most who seek it as a career, it wasn't through lack of exposure.
I grew up with lots and lots of music in the house," she said.
While her early training in music was classical via church choir and formal lessons, she said her grandmother instilled a love of jazz early on.
Her mother was a music teacher, reinforcing the love of music that she was already acquiring.
Despite her mother's influence, though, not all the formal training sunk in.
I have a heavy inclination toward playing by ear, although I try to force myself to master reading," Tucker admitted.
And after her parents split, her dad later married a Puerto Rican woman who introduced Tucker to Latin American music.
As for the CD, Tucker said it grew out of both artistic urges and business considerations.
I'd only been doing music for a year in the jazz realm, and I saw that if I wanted to go to the next step ---- if I wanted to do the festivals ---- I was going to have to get at least one CD under my belt to be taken seriously. I didn't want to be known as a wedding singer."
As for international flavor of the album, with jazz chestnuts such as Blue Skies" and My Funny Valentine" mixed in with French standards La Vie En Rose" and La Mer" plus Brazilian and tango songs, Tucker said it reflects her own journeys from San Diego around the world and back again.
I really wanted it to be a collection of timeless classics from around the world. I wanted it to be a journey that took the listener through generations and cultures, both the familiar and not so familiar."