Harry Allen: Jazz For The Heart: Ballads II (2006)
File Under: Concentrate of Stan Getz (ballad division)!
Harry Allen is not exactly a new act. Yet, after some 26 albums under his own name and sideman dates on many others, the saxophonist is hardly a recognizable name to the general public. Too bad, since this recording is among his best and certainly most evocative of a protracted ballad session by Stan Getz. Thematically, the album is perfect for a romantic evening, covering a lengthy 72 minutes. My one reservation is that midway through the album, the Jimmy Forrest standard "Night Train" is played as a mid-tempo blues (as it should be) and damages the mood that the preceding tracks had established.
Harry Allen was a graduate of Rutgers University in New Jersey in 1989 with a music degree and found himself immersed in the New York recording scene with an unexpected opportunity to sit in for Zoot Sims at a session. He has been recording for independent labels like Nagel-Heyer, Progressive and Audiophile, and he's been an RCA recording artist for the past eight years. Now he primarily works within the Harry Allen and Joe Cohn Quartet, a group that was awarded the New York City Nightlife Award for Outstanding Jazz Combo in January, 2006.
Allen's latest release is a followup to last year's Jazz for the Soul and his musical colleagues here are truly veterans of the jazz scene: pianist John Bunch, guitarist Joe Cohn, bassist Joel Forbes and drummer Chuck Riggs. The album is a tribute to the ballads of the Great American Songbook, with one Allen original included ("If There's A Sky Above"). Some of the titles include the Washington/Crosby/Young piece "I Don't Stand A Ghost of a Chance," Johnny Mercer/Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark" and Hilliard/Mann's "In The Wee Small Hours (Of The Morning)," featuring Joe Cohn's tasty inclusion of the rarely heard verse.
The above reference to Stan Getz is not meant in any way to imply that Allen's music is derivative. Rather, it is an affirmation of this artist's mastery of a style that has been recognized as a significant achievement. Hopefully, some of that will rub off, belatedly, on Allen's career.
Track Listing: I Don't Stand A Ghost Of A Chance; Nancy (With the Laughing Face); September Song; I'm Confessin'(That I Love You); Mona Lisa; Skylark; Teach Me Tonight; Moonlight In Vermont; Night Train; If There's A Sky Above; You Go To My Head; Smoke Gets In Your Eyes; In The Wee Small Hours (of the Morning); I'll Be Seeing You.
Personnel: Harry Allen: tenor saxophone; John Bunch: piano; Joe Cohn: guitar; Joel Forbes: bass; Chuck Riggs: drums.
Record Label: McMahon Jazz Medicine