Allison Cornell
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Allison Cornell

New York City, New York, United States | SELF | AFM

New York City, New York, United States | SELF | AFM
Band Jazz Adult Contemporary


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"Allison Cornell, Pretty Colored Lights"

Longtime celebrity side person and Stony Point resident Allison Cornell finally flies free with the lush, eclectic and elegant “Pretty Colored Lights.”

A virtuoso musician (violin, piano,voice) with a Masters from Julliard, Cornell has toured and recorded most notably with Joe Jackson, as well as Cyndi Lauper, Pat Benatar, Ann Margaret, Tracy Chapman, Jann Arden and countless others

With her history, it’s not surprising, but the guest musicians are to die for; Joe Jackson, Graham Maby Cindy Lauper Mike Viseglia (longtime Suzanne Vega bassist)and guitar aces Jon Herington and Kat Dyson.

With this gorgeous diverse recording, Cornell shows her own voice, with songs of love lose and longing. The real surprise here is not her musicianship, which is a given, but the strength of her songwriting skills, and the power of her voice.

Starting with the urgent and anxious “Automatic” Cornell simply soars. The moods and textures here are pop melodic, but never contrived or predictable.

“Wild World” wide-open spaces give Cornell breathing room and a place for a gorgeous violin solo (or is that fiddle?) , while Maby’s melodic bass line propels the introspective travelogue “In the Fire.”

Joe Jackson’s “Glamour and Pain” is a stunning standout; here Cornell’s powerful pipes are expansive and emotional as she makes an engaging Jackson composition her very own.

“I Want Everything” is a funky powerhouse where Cornell’s power the sexy “Crush” borders on hip-hop and falls into the equally sexy “Fantasize.” Piano ballad “What A Shame” shows her smoldering power and range, and “You an I” has a soothing bossa nova vibe.

Cornell has made an enviable career out of making really good people sound even better. Now with this long over-due release, she does that for herself. Make sure you get this lovely release by a real musician, and now at last, a real artist.

David Malachowski is a guitarist, producer and freelance journalist living in Woodstock.

- Daily Freeman, Kingston NY

"Pretty Colored Lights: Very Pretty!"

Written by Mike Parker
Thursday, 18 October 2007

Pretty Colored Lights

by Allison Cornell


The setting was a backyard 4th of July celebration. Sitting in the dark, watching sky rockets swoosh, sparklers swish, and cherry bombs explode, Allison Cornell says she heard a childlike voice squeal with delight, ‘Pretty Colored Lights!’ It is from such mundane moments that titles are born. And it is an apt description of Ms. Cornell’s debut recording.

This twelve-song collection of alt-pop, alt-rock, alt-country is a cornucopia of sizzling, dazzling, popping, and explosive tunes that linger in the air like the pungent, yet pleasing smell of fireworks, long after the music has stopped. Ms. Cornell, who owns a Master’s from Juilliard, has received an equally compelling education from extensive touring and recording with such diverse acts as Joe Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Shania Twain, and Pat Benatar. The result is a project that is at once precise, structured, and safe, while maintaining a wild and unkempt spirit of adventure.

The opening track, “Automatic,” is a perfect example of Ms. Cornell’s meticulously structured adventurism. Beginning with a gently insistent four/four signature, the keys incrementally give way to jazzy orchestration, and pulsing guitar, all designed to embellish Ms. Cornell’s richly textured vocals. “I Can’t Get Over You,” gives her the opportunity to explore the moody, meandering emotions of love found and lost, while “Wild World” bridges the gap between Old Country and New Country. I could hear her dueting with Willie Nelson to great advantage on this tune.

But Ms. Cornell doesn’t settle into any groove for very long. Like fireworks that all have the same heart and soul but very different expressions, Pretty Colored Lights scoots comfortably between classic pop tunes like “In The Fire” and the Sheena Easton-esque “I Want Everything,” to the jazz-inflections of “Crush” and “Fantasize,” to the pop-rock sensibilities of “Glamour and Pain.” Each expression effectively showcases Ms. Cornell’s obvious grasp of the depth and range of the varying styles, yet allows her the freedom to make each style uniquely her own.

Whether your taste runs to Shania Twain, Sheena Easton, or Suzanne Vega, you will find something to like on Pretty Colored Lights. But if you are one of those people who finds delight by sitting in the dark with close friends and watching the ever-shifting display of fireflies and fireworks, you are gonna love the whole album.

- buddy

"Reviews: Allison Cornell ~ Pretty Colored Lights"

Artist: Allison Cornell

CD: Pretty Colored Lights

Home: Stony Point, New York

Style: Pop

Quote: "The tracks on this CD are top-notch examples of production and song writing."

By Darryl Gregory

In order to begin this review of Allison Cornell’s new CD Pretty Colored Lights, let me quote from the very first track:

Before I begin let me try to dig in and explain what I do /
I sing what I sing and I play what I play but I still don’t have a clue ...

Because Cornell hasn’t figured it out, this CD is all over the musical style spectrum. There are tracks like “Wild World” that sound like Mary Chapin Carpenter, and then tracks like “You and Me” that sound like mid-seventies Diana Ross. Techno beat programming next to fiddle and dobro makes it difficult to figure out what Allison Cornell is all about. CDs like this are fun to put together as a performer because you get to dabble in all different styles and pick up instruments you may not normally play all the time. But, as a CD for a fan it doesn’t offer something to hold on to. This feels more like a style reel.

That said, the tracks on this CD are top-notch examples of production and song writing. Cornell’s ability to compose is never in question, and her songs hold up extremely well when placed next to two covers: “Glamour and Pain” by Joe Jackson and "Rock This Country," originally sung by Shania Twain. Cornell’s touring and recording resume is studded with a Who’s Who of the pop and jazz world, and she has many of them contributing on this CD. I look forward to hearing a more focused recording from Allison Cornell next time around.

"Stepping out of the background"

January 11, 2007
Allison Cornell's work has been seen and heard by millions of music fans who probably have no idea who she is. But with the release of her first solo album and a short tour of Southeastern cities, the Juilliard-trained veteran of the pop music wars is poised to introduce herself to the public by bringing her considerable talents to the front of the stage. For much of the last two decades, Cornell has maintained aback-up musician's role - on stage
and in the studio - for some of the most popular entertainers in the world, including Ann-Margaret, Pat Benatar, Joe Jackson, Shania Twain and Cyndi Lauper.
"My regular job is with Cyndi," says Cornell, who plays keyboards, violin and viola and sings.
"We've been together six years. I've been on some fairly big tours with her, so I work around whatever fits in her schedule. I feel like I've got one of the best jobs out there for me. It's
challenging and yet it's a good fit."
Cornell's album, "Pretty Colored Lights," demonstrates the work of an artist who was determined to get the best out of herself, writing 10 of the 12 songs, playing no less than five instruments and working with several producers in different studios and cities. She also gets A-list musical assistance from the likes of Lauper (who adds vocals on the warm closer "I Fall Down") and Jackson (whose band backs Cornell for her take on his spicy composition "Glamour and Pain"). "It took everything I had to do it the way I wanted to," says Cornell, who easily glides from pop to Americana stylings to feverish dance beats. "I had stuff I'd finished months ago and revisited things that were in development. It was what I could pull together with the budget I had. My passion was restricted by time and money, not that that's necessarily a bad thing, but it sometimes pushes
you in different directions. The hodge-podge (nature) of the album was by design - I like records with different flavors." After earning her master's degree from Juilliard, Cornell eschewed the life of a music theory teacher for that of a performer, and spent several years in New York City trying to get a solo career off the ground. "I spent a lot of time writing, recording, performing in clubs and even playing in a wedding band that was full of great connections," she recalls. "But it didn't turn out that I could make a living playing my own stuff. ... It was heartbreaking to me, and I got really stressed about it. It still feels like a bad relationship I'm returning to. I'm a little more hopeful now." When she decided to find another way into music, Cornell seemingly merged right into the express lane. "I wound up working with a lot of up-and-coming acts in New York and eventually got recommended to go to work for Ann-Margaret," Cornell says, remembering her first big gig.
"From that point, it's just a matter of showing up, doing a good job and being nice to be around." When she's not roaming the road or burning the midnight oil in the studio, Cornell, who visits the Mercury Lounge on Friday for a solo performance, works hard at her upstate New York home, putting additions on to her house and developing recording and rehearsal space. She also rides horses, plays golf ("I've never been on a major tour that didn't have golfers," she quips) and takes relaxing runs in the woods.
Cornell looks forward to visiting Athens, to see her old friend Susan Murphy, director of Canopy Studio. The two collaborated on a show at
Canopy several years ago, with Cornell performing her music live during some of the aerial pieces. "Susan and I met through friends in New York," says Cornell. "She's been so enthusiastic about my music; she loves my tunes. I did some of the music at her wedding." Although she's usually surrounded by top-notch players in their collective supporting role to a superstar headliner, it will just be Cornell, her strings and her keys in this tour. "I'm going it alone," she says. "I'm really not in a position to invite others to come and play. I accompany myself on keyboards, and while it's not exactly like the album, it's still my voice and my music. I provide a different look into these songs."
- Athens Banner Herald

"The Richmond Buzz"

(The Richmond Buzz)
Welcome to Richmond! Describe your music style, if someone has never been to one of your
shows, what can they expect?

(Allison Cornell)
Thanks for the welcome to a great town! The solo show I'm doing centers around the pop and
smooth r&b ballads, played on the piano. I have a few songs I can do on acoustic guitar that are in
the americana genre. I also enlist the help of my laptop to accompany me, with custom made
mixes I do at home to take on the road so people hear and know a little more about how the album

(The Richmond Buzz)
Tell me about the moment when you realized you wanted to make music an in important part of
your life?

(Allison Cornell)
I don't know if I had a moment... It was gradual from the age of 7, because that's when I saw the
violin demonstrated at school and fell in love with it, but I was a natural singer from infancy and
since it is such a natural activity, it took a minute to figure out that there was a career path
associated with it.

(The Richmond Buzz)
Growing up, was there anyone in your personal life that influenced you musically?

(Allison Cornell)
My violin teacher until I was 12, then a slew of great teachers in High School and College. Then I
met Leonard Bernstein right before I moved to NY to go to Juilliard. I was playing viola in an
orchestra that he was supervising and we got to know each other a tiny bit. When he heard me at
a late night party, he encouraged me a lot, to keep singing. Anyway, I hung on his every word
and it fueled my passion for popular music that ran concurrently with my studies at Juilliard.

(The Richmond Buzz)
You have such a diverse background and have
toured with many music legends, such as:
Joe Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Shania Twain,
Angelique Kidjo, Jann Arden, Tracy Chapman,
Pat Benatar, Ann-Margret and Ronnie Spector.
What did you take away from these

(Allison Cornell)
Well, there are many elements involved that
put an artist in a position of power like the ones
that I've toured with. Lots of people work really
hard and have talent, but don't get as far as
those individuals. Now, when you take into
consideration the number of people that get
lucky and pop through to the mainstream, only
the select few have the stamina and courage
to keep it going. I have learned to admire the
intelligence and hard work behind keeping

(The Richmond Buzz)
You have recorded with Cyndi Lauper, Jann Arden, Pat Benatar, Joe Jackson, Rachael Sage,
Carter Burwell, Tim Booth, Angelo Badelmente and Branford Marsalis. Working with such
impressive icons, what have been some of the valuable learning experiences that you gained from
working so closely with these artists?

(Allison Cornell)
My best recording experiences are about capturing moments. All the people on this list that I've
recorded with are experienced and well trained to understand what that means. That can be
translated to many art forms and many day to day experiences - capturing moments, remembering,
feeling, being present. It's about awakening and that's a life journey, so good recording methods
can be a metaphor for how to get the most out of life.

(The Richmond Buzz)
What instrument do
you enjoy playing the

(Allison Cornell)
My voice.

(The Richmond Buzz)
What is the best part
of being a musician,
what aspects do you
enjoy the most?

(Allison Cornell)
It's eclectic. I have a lot of control over how I make music, even in a sideman situation. I make
decisions about what my tone is like, how to play my parts, and often I make up new parts every
time I play a song. There are also many cross disciplines that I enjoy, such as computer expertise,
and physical fitness which is integrated into singing, being energetic on stage, and in the case of
my solo tour - loading in and out of venues with all my heavy equipment. I'm also a very seasoned
traveller and have a great time with myself while I'm on the road. It's something I actually do very

(The Richmond Buzz)
What has been the biggest challenge to pursuing a music career?

(Allison Cornell)
My challenge has been not getting my feelings hurt when things don't pan out like they were
"supposed" to. I have to be at peace with a lot of disappointment in order to keep going forward. I
think this happens to me because I myself am very reliable and have learned to follow through with
plans and promises. If that energy is not reciprocated, and that's often the case, I get hurt and take
it personally. I understand intellectually that this is an immature reaction, but it's my weakness, and
that's OK, but I'd like to improve.

(The Richmond Buzz)
You have traveled all over the world, which country did you enjoy visiting the most and why?

(Allison Cornell)
Definitely New Zealand. It's a smaller, better version of Britain, America -the generally developed
world. They have great reverence for their native people and their artists. That was my
experience, anyway, and I was hanging out with a lot of people that work for the government down

(The Richmond Buzz)
During a tour with Joe Jackson you got to play
a viola solo on Late Night with Conan O'Brien,
what was that experience like?

(Allison Cornell)
That was a good challenge - probably my first
big TV appearance. I've seen it once since it
aired, on some tape somewhere, and though I
cringed as though I was going to be
embarrassed, it worked out quite the opposite.
He writes such great music and I was able to
pull it off, so I was very proud.

(The Richmond Buzz)
What has been the best advice someone has given you professionally?

(Allison Cornell)
Joe Jackson said something to me recently after seeing me do a show. We'd had a few beers, and
I think (?) that the jist of his comments were encouraging me to find my purpose for doing my own
music, and tap into a kind of desperation to make it work. I think that has helped me in the last 6
months as I finished the cd and started promoting. I feel more desperate than ever to make it work,
and his comments have made me comfortable with a sort of unsettling but very motivating

(The Richmond Buzz)
What advice can you offer to the many struggling musicians who are beginning their journey in
pursuit of their dreams?

(Allison Cornell)
Find a good music scene that you can live in. Move to a big city if you have to. Go out and play
with everybody, but always look for the ones that are better than you and get in that band. Learn
meticulously every detail of the music that inspires you. If you don't like your teacher, quit and find
one that you like, or teach yourself. Learn to sing, and learn to play with accurate time.

(The Richmond Buzz)
What was your best achievement
in 2006?

(Allison Cornell)
Finishing the recording of "Pretty
Colored Lights" and paying for it!
Early in January, in Southern
California, I took a fall off my
Arabian Mare the day before I was
supposed to fly back to NY and do
some shows with Cyndi Lauper. I
was crushed, in more ways than
one, to hear (after three days of
getting x-rayed) the doctors
recommend I didn't fly for at least
a few months, due to my cracked
ribs and a punctured lung, the
latter being the bigger problem.
BTW - these events are depicted
in a song on the album called "I
Fall Down". I managed to drive
back to NY and do the shows and
a lot of other work while I

"I Fall Down" features background vocals by Cyndi Lauper.

recovered and about a month later drove again to San Francisco to make another Cyndi gig. I
guess I'm pretty protective of that position in that band! About 7 months later I finished the
recording of Pretty Colored Lights.

(The Richmond Buzz)
What do you hope the year 2007 will bring?

(Allison Cornell)
Slowly building a following and finding homes for my music.

Here is the fishbowl question:
(The Richmond Buzz)
What responsibility do you think artists have as role models?

(Allison Cornell)
I would like to speak personally about this, because we are all so different, and why shouldn't
everybody have a role model that suits their needs? There's no perfect model for everyone. For
myself, I thought that it would be responsible for me to get a great education, and then turn it into
the best art I could make, and give that back to the people I could touch. I sing about heartbreak
and I sing about hopes and dreams and the promise of good loving support. Those are popular
themes, and I like my music to be pretty, so hopefully the right combination is found to guide the
listener in and help them feel their feelings. I think this in a very simple way can improve life. And
that would be my wish.

- The Richmond Buzz


Pretty Colored Lights

"I Want Everything" was added at:

KUNV/Las Vegas, NV
Choice102.9FM/Boston, MA
KRVR/Modesto, CA
WRTC/Hartford, CT
KEDM/Monroe, LA
WBCX/Gainesville, GA
WEIB/Springfield, MA
WJAB/Huntsville, AL
WBFZ/Selma, AL
TM Century/Music sampler used for retail (Wal-Mart, Kroger) instore airplay, armed forces radio
WVSU/Birmingham, AL
WLRQ/Orlando, FL (Sunday jazz show on A/C station)
WDLT/Mobile, AL (Sunday jazz show on Urban A/C station)
WLFR/Atlantic City, NJ



Video available at:
Allison has a Masters from Juilliard. As she continued her education in New York, as a singer/songwriter learning the ropes, she toured with Joe Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Paula Cole, Suzanne Vega, Shania Twain, Angelique Kidjo, Jann Arden, Tracy Chapman, Pat Benatar, Ann-Margret and Ronnie Spector. Her recording credits include work with Cyndi Lauper, Jann Arden, Pat Benatar, Joe Jackson, Rachael Sage, Carter Burwell, Angelo Badelmente and Branford Marsalis.

"I chose to do two covers on this cd because I want to pay respects to the artists who have taken me under wing and out on the road into the world as a sideman which exposed me to the power of great performances. I had the privilege of working with Cyndi Lauper on her last two recordings, and it was great to have her play and sing on "I Fall Down" which is the closing track on "Pretty Colored Lights". Primarily it was recorded and produced by myself, Sammy Merendino and Miklos Malek, who was also the mixing engineer that pulled it all together."