It’s taken the legendary alto player Marshall Allen 50 years to record his debut as a leader – he first recorded with saxophonist James Moody in 1949 – but it was worth the wait. As anyone who’s seen Allen snapping his fingers and bobbing his head on his regular gig with the Sun Ra Arkestra can tell you, Allen can play some of the most excoriating horn lines around, but his main mission is to have fun. This Monday date is full of the sound of joy.
Much of the disc is attractively song-oriented. “Out Of Nowhere” moves from straight bebop to roaring free-bop over its 12 minutes, there’s an enjoyable romp through “Fly Me To The Moon,” and “When You Wish Upon A Star” takes Jiminy Cricket out for a woozy dance that Disney probably never imagined. “Albatross” and “Seven And a Half Steps” are free improvs, the former dark and ruminative, the latter charging, and tightly-wound.
On alto and soprano saxophones, Mark Whitecage provides mobile flutterings that perfectly complement Allen’s Johnny Hodges-meets-Ornette Coleman tone. Dominic Duval provides bass commentary in the revolutionary mode of Scott LaFaro and Gary Peacock: Killer harmonic imagination, and a rhythmic sense that is to die for. Luqman Ali, a longtime associate of Allen’s in the Sun Ra constellation, supports the group with crisp, propulsive drumming. Who says Mondays are all bad?
Personnel: Marshall Allen - alto saxophone Mark Whitecage - clarinet, alto & soprano saxophones Dominic Duval - bass Luqman Ali - drums