“This album is a treasure, for both lovers of vocal jazz and classic poetry. Allee’s new settings stand out for their simple, memorable tunes, and their accurate reflections of Shakespeare’s original dramatic usage. Allee’s faithful treatments of these familiar texts balance against looser interpretations where Allee freely mixes the worlds of Elizabethan theatre and modern jazz.” - Thomas Cunniffe, Jazz History Online
“Vocalist John Allee does something rather special on Bardfly, his album of Shakespeare music. He creates a sort of Elizabethan/1950s jazz club, which is hosted by Feste, so you know there is going to be some humor in these tracks... totally delicious and ridiculously cool.”
- Music Log by Michael Doherty
"Intriguing and captivating...Whether reciting the lyrics or singing, John Allee is quite an engaging performer. With the splendid backing provided here, he has produced the excellent, delightful jazz-Shakespeare musical fusion, Bardfly."
- In a Blue Mood
"With Bardfly, Allee—a well-known thespian himself—adds a unique perspective on Shakespeare's words on a baker's dozen selections. The music and arrangements are all Allee's—and they are terrific. They are compelling to the point of quasi-enhancement. The entire album is engaging and a throwback to hipper days when beat poets droned their and Allen Ginsberg's and Lawrence Ferlinghetti's lines over the coolest of cool jazz, all wafting in smoke-filled coffeehouses...Backed by a fine jazz ensemble, it is Allee's slick composing, dramatic delivery, and acting chops that make this recording a standout."
- All About Jazz
"What actor and singer John Allee has done is to underline the lyrical universalism of Shakespeare’s drama…and what makes Allee’s Bardfly unique is the hip interpretation of songs and lines from Henry V, The Tempest,
Othello and others…Allee is so convincing an actor/musician and so evenly in love with jazz and with the Bard that it actually works. He has a great band behind him. No one tries to sound like they’d normally be playing lute and it swings along at a great pace."
- Jazz Journal
“Vocalist John Allee came up with a brilliant idea and it works wonderfully… Fantastic!”
"A record that finds a sweet spot you didn’t know you were looking for, this is one of those cool diversions that slyly moves from appetizer to main course before you realize it."
- Midwest Record
"13 delightful tracks…fun…sensitive…gentle…lively…humorous… the instrumentalists are well up to and beyond the mark…the CD deserves careful listening to catch the full meaning of the lyrics, maybe hearing the album three times would hardly be enough."
- Bebop Spoken Here
Featured in JAZZIZ - New Music Monday
"The beauty and multi-leveled appeal of this album is that Shakespeare lovers and non-lovers can both dig in. The vocals and musicianship are top shelf. And, better yet, that cool vibe one senses in the opening, stays intact throughout, balanced with superb ballads."
- Making a Scene
"An otherworldly, super-literate and supremely swinging realm that finds the veteran stage and TV actor, singer-songwriter and all-around creative hyphenate fusing his dual lifelong passions for all things Shakespeare
- Broadway World
"This truly is the ultimately hip(pest) spoken-word jazz I’ve listened to in several years…John just KICKS out the word jams on this splendid aural adventure...if you don’t purchase another album this year – GET this one."
- Contemporary Fusion Reviews
“Bardfly, by vocalist/songwriter John Allee, is simply one of the most delightfully hip albums…It grabs your attention right away, and you find yourself enjoying a journey of words and music that is transfixing. The more you listen to Bardfly, the more you find to enjoy. Bardfly succeeds with flying colors.” - Jersey Jazz
"A clever and seductive gateway to the contrastingly pure beauty of the words melded with melody...Allee's acting and singing are one, with a voice that can be especially soothing or radiate calibrated levels of awe or pleas. With no grandstanding, he steps into the shoes of sage or lovestruck suitor...Bardfly succeeds with flying colors." - Talkin' Broadway
Songs from Shakespeare with a Be-bop Twist
A new collection of unconventional, humorous, and romantic songs inspired by the immortal Bard of Avon, Willy "The Shake" Shakespeare, composed, arranged, and adapted by John Allee based on lyrics from the plays of William Shakespeare.
Showcasing his wide array of talents as a vocalist, composer, lyricist and dramatic performer, the eclectic 13-track set – in which Allee assumes the persona of Feste “The Bardfly” Johnson – mines compelling verses from a wide swath of the Bard’s canon from Othello to Henry IV as a foundation for everything from blues, ballads and hymns to compelling spoken word and swingin’ ditties.
Bardfly ˈbärd-ˌflī/ n. (pl. -ies) informal: a be-bop balladeer who spends much time drinking in Shakespeare: "a verse-swinging bardfly."
Recorded by Dori Amarilio at Casa Amarilio Studio, Studio City, CA, May 2019
Mixed by Jeff Peters, at The Pie Studios, Pasadena, CA
Mastered by Nate Wood, at Kerseboom Mastering, Brooklyn, NY
Art Direction by John Allee
Cover Art by Michelle Feeley
Photography by Rory Lewis
Special thanks to Susan Allee, Pete & Patty Allee, Moira Walley-Beckett, Barbara Ross & Michael Bassett, Tim Wahl & Julia Strickland
And thanks to Mahesh, to Aaron, Dominic, Javier, Matt, to Dori, Jeff and Nate, to Michelle and Rory, to Jeremiah McNulty Graphics, Michael Lee, Vito Viscuso and Audio Rents, and to Kathleen Ross-Allee
And ever thanks to Adam Ritz, Armin Shimerman & Kitty Swink, Brian & Kahea Mooney, Bridget Hoffman, Chas Harris, Chip Allee, Crystal Robbins & Jim Czerwinski, David Bowen & Bennett Rink, Debra Allee & Dennis Mincieli, Dennis Allee, Don McManus, Don Schlossman, Duane Benjamin, Gayle Stringer & Nancy Nickelson, Gigi Bermingham, Jane Mortifee, Janine Paver & Eric Brown, Jocelyn Towne & Simon Helberg, Joshua Beckett, Julia & Walter Hamann, Lauren & Marc Vahanian, Lisa Abend, Lisa Vidal, Liza Seneca, Luke Stratte McClure, Marnie & Peter Gelfman, Michael Lennox, Michael Marcel, Michael Michetti, Michael Silversher, Peter Van Norden, Phillip Brock, Randall Willis,
Reba Thomas, Richard Hellesen, Roberta Freeman, Sean McHugh, Stephen Lloyd, Steven Robman, Susan Simonson, Sy Devore, Timothy Smith, Trish & Andreas Freund, and to all the groovy and gentle folks who backed this project on Kickstarter
I first met Shakespeare in the second grade while attending the Broadway musical adaptation of "Two Gentlemen of Verona." The show made a big impression on me, especially for its inventive use of frisbee tossing from the box seats, and the incorporation of a litany of expletives that are like so much ear candy to a seven year old. Will and I hit it off and stayed in touch and our first collaboration came ten years later in a production of Benjamin Britten's musical adaptation of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" directed by theatre impresario Gordon Davidson for LA Opera, which led to a lifelong partnership that continues to this day.
I wrote many of the "Bardfly" songs for, and first performed them in a theatrcial production entitled "Barfly Shakespeare," written and directed by Matthew Leavitt to whom I owe my gratitude for setting me on to this project. -JA
Click on a track below for a sample.
"A supportive band...rich vocals...a super, entertaining set" - O's Place Jazz Newsletter
"All She Would Say Was I'm Cold"
Music Video from the album Expect Delays
Expect Delays is the follow up to John (a.k.a. Johnnnye) Allee's acclaimed album "Unless It Isn’t" which was called a “stunning suite of songs” in American Songwriter magazine.
Allee, who is a recipient of the ASCAP/Sammy Cahn Award for excellence in lyric writing, produced this recording in collaboration with songwriter/producer Phil Swann (Clay Aiken, Lee Ann Womack, Blake Shelton). Jeff Peters (The Beach Boys, Brian Setzer, Stray Cats) was the mixing and mastering engineer.
From the slow, gospel tinged “On Melrose” where our narrator finds himself contemplating the dimples in the seat where his girlfriend once sat, to the propulsive and pianistically virtuosic “I Fail,” a tale of a destructive, but inescapable love affair, the songs on this recording have a confessional, deeply-layered intensity along with a wry and playful soulfulness that percolates throughout. Ballads such as “When Love Comes Down” and “All She Would Say Was I’m Cold” have a theatrical immediacy, with “Sugar Pop” and “Why Couldn’t We Just Forget About Life for A While?” adding a bit of R&B and jazzy fun. In the lament “All She Would Say Was I’m Cold,” an untrustworthy barfly can’t quite figure out why he’s been left, and in “Instant Replay” the singer grapples with the consequences of leaving but not letting go. Things pick up in the love department with “The Right Parts Combine” and “Lucky Day Girl,” each providing a groove to match the catch, and the serene “Quiet Company” brings us in close with the feel of an old-school standard.
Recorded live at the legendary Village Recorders, "Expect Delays" is an intimate set of piano-vocals that proves to be worth the long wait since "Unless it Isn't," once again highlighting Allee’s finely tuned storytelling, personal and poetical style, and sophisticated, emotionally resonant musicianship.
Recorded at Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA
Mixed, Mastered and Additional Recording at The Pie Studios, Pasadena, CA
Produced by John Allee and Phil Swann
Mixing and Mastering Engineer: Jeff Peters
Engineer: Gabe Burch
John Allee: Piano and Vocals
Assistant Engineer: Alan Demoss
Album Photo: Dylan Patrick
Graphics: Jeremiah McNulty Design
Special thanks to Kathleen, Mom, Dad, Phil Swann, Jeff Peters, Tina Morris, Moira Walley-Beckett, Helen Slater, Marvin Etzioni
Click on a track below for a sample.
"With his solo debut, UNLESS IT ISN'T, Allee reveals a stunning suite of songs that acknowledges his theatrical history and honors his metamorphosis into a modern-day troubadour." - American Songwriter Magazine
"Songcraft with cinematic touches, intricate, original melodies and winning vocal performances... Listen to (Allee's) epic tune, "On the Kern County Line." - Music Connection
Unless It Isn't
John's Debut Album
Unless It Isn't is an earthy blend of stripped-down, story driven folk-pop/roots-rock freshly brewed and served up steaming from the American roadhouse. Combining a gentle and fluid voice with acoustic piano, acoustic and electric guitars, and drums, Johnnye's unconventional songs are at once wry, intimate, soulful, cinematic, and poignant.
From the rootsy, ice-house feel of “Everything Will Be All Right,” to the mournful country-flavor of “On the Kern County Line” and “Texas to Tuesday,” the songs on this album have a personal musical style that is grounded in the traditions of the great singer-songwriters from the sixties and seventies. “I'm the Apostrophe” and “Fire is Yellow” take on a heat-hazed swampy intensity with “Torn” adding a measure of ethereal ambience and “Half on the Side of the Leaver” lending gospel tinged raw-boned grit. “That's the Thing of It” introduces an almost symphonic piano-based pop sound, while “A Simple Transpicuous Philippic; or, You’re Not Nice” plays it folk-traditional in an homage to Paul Simon's early send up of Bob Dylan. “Another New York Knockout,” “Hidden in the Crosshairs,” and “I Love You Like This” display crisply poetic lyrics and haunting melodies, with a rich sense of harmony in the elegantly simple arrangements.
Unless It Isn't
Recorded and Mixed at Private Island Trax, Los Angeles, CA
Produced by John Allee
Recorded and Mixed by Christopher Henry
John (Johnnye) Allee: Vocals, Piano
Kevin Holmes: Guitars
John Harvey: Drums and Percussion
Moira Walley-Beckett: Backup vocals
Assistant Engineer: Glenn Connelly
Mastered by Dave Collins at Collins Audio, Los Angeles, CA
Album Photo: Adam Ritz
Thanks to Moira (Moiselle) Walley-Beckett, Kevin (Keb' Ho) Holmes, John (Harv) Harvey, Christopher (Chris) Henry, and to Kathleen (about whom, every song is written...)
Click on a track below for a sample.