Ben Allison: Bringing Listeners to the Music
BA: I'm not sure about euphoria. But I do believe that if you exude enthusiasm for what you do and try to work with musicians who feel the same people will respond with a similar energy. During the years when the Collective was most active with our concert series, newsletter, special projects, festival and educational events we were pouring a lot of creative energy into the New York music community. And I was not surprised when people, many of whom we did not know or had never met, came forward and ask how they could help or volunteer their time. People like to be involved in positive, creative work.
AAJ: You are currently working with five different groupsPeace Pipe, New Quartet, Medicine Wheel, the Kush Trio, and the Herbie Nichols Project. In a way it's like a writer who is writing various books simultaneously. What urges you to express yourself in different contexts?
BA: Each of those five projects is an extension of the other. There are certain musical things that you can only do in a trio context, others that only work with a larger instrumentation. The addition of the kora in Peace Pipe was a way for me to try something totally new and challenge myself as a composer and band leader. The Herbie Nichols Project (which I co-lead with pianist Frank Kimbrough) is a very different project for me in that it is the only one that I lead that does not play my music. It's an interesting experience to work with someone else's music like it was your own, especially music as original and unique as Herbie Nichols's.
BA: I would not attempt to describe it. I would only ask that they listen to it. If I could put my thoughts and beliefs into words then I would not have to be a musician.
AAJ: Your records are doing pretty well and reaching different audiences in different countries. What new projects do you have in mind?
BA: I am currently working on my new quartet of bass, trumpet, guitar and drums. I also just recently had a great experience in Brazil where a local 80-piece symphony orchestra arranged my music for a performance in Sao Paulo. I am hoping to write some new music for the orchestra and perform it next year.
AAJ: How do you explain the success of your records on the radio? Isn't it hard to have jazz records being played on this media?
BA: Part of the success comes from the hard work at Palmetto Records (the label that I'm on) and Terry Coen who does such a great job of letting folks know about my music. I also think that my style of jazz incorporates modern sounds that the younger generation can get with while hopefully offering older audiences a certain kind of sophistication that they appreciate.
AAJ: What is this New Quartet project of yours?
BA: This will be the debut performance of my new quartet in Portugal. The band features Ron Horton [trumpet], Steve Cardenas [guitar], and Michael Sarin [drums]. I am really looking forward to it.
AAJ: You just came back from Brazil which is a Portuguese speaking country. Can you specify what you were doing there?
BA: In addition to the symphonic performance I mentioned above, we also did our second annual Jazz Composers Collective Festival Brazil which featured many of the ongoing projects led by members of the Collective. We had a ball.
AAJ: A guy comes to you and says"Hey Mr. Allison I know you are a hell of a bass/jazz player! Now, I know nothing about jazz so can you tell me a CD that can turn me to this musicWhat would your advice be?
BA: Of course, I'd recommend one of my own!
Michael Blake Trio, Right Before Your Very Ears (Clean Feed, 2005)
Ben Allison/Medicine Wheel, Buzz (Palmetto, 2004)
Frank Kimbrough, Lulluabluebye (Palmetto, 2004)
Ted Nash, Still Evolved (Palmetto, 2003)
Ben Allison, Peace Pipe (Palmetto, 2002)
Tom Christensen, Paths (Playscape, 2002)
Ben Allison/Medicine Wheel, Riding the Nuclear Tiger (Palmetto, 2001)
The Herbie Nichols Project, Strange City (Palmetto, 2001)
Ben Allison/Medicine Wheel, Third Eye (Palmetto, 1999)
Ted Nash Double Quartet, Rhyme & Reason (Arabesque, 1999)
The Herbie Nichols Project, Dr. Cyclop's Dream (Soul Note, 1999)
Ben Allison/Medicine Wheel, Medicine Wheel (Palmetto, 1998)
Frank Kimbrough, Chant (Igmod, 1998)
Ben Allison, Seven Arrows (Koch, 1995)
The Herbie Nichols Project, Love is Proximity (Soul Note, 1995)
Lee Konitz, Rhapsody II (Evidence, 1993)
Lee Konitz, Rhapsody (Evidence, 1993)
Ted Nash, Out of This World (Mapleshade, 1991)
Ben Allison: Different Generations, Same Realizations (2003)
Ugly Beauty: The Music and Mind of Ben Allison (2001)
An AAJ Interview with Ben Allison (2001)