John Allred: Focused
The back of this disc carries a quote from Don Sebesky: "John Allred is a MONSTER! Very scary. I haven't been so impressed with a trombone player since Carl Fontana. John plays the way I always wanted to, but didn't have the chops. He can be in my band anytime."
Sebesky is right. Allred has the chops. He is a sharply precise, startlingly fleet trombonist (witness his cover of Sebesky's "Are We Having Fun Yet" and the Parkerian head of his original "Focused." If anything is focused, it's the sound of his instrument.) He slides from note to note only sparingly (and very cleanly), preferring an attack as clearly-defined as if he were playing a saxophone. His quartet mates are up to his challenge, particularly pianist Richard Drexler, who charges with Allred through the opening "Love for Sale" with a matching furious precision. They're on fire, all right, and theirs is a crisp blue flame. They can be intense, as here, but also unabashedly upbeat, as on a chipper take on "On the Street Where You Live" and "Easy Does It."
"Blues for Mister Broadway," the second cut, is a high-energy highlight of this disc, and gives bassist Kelly Sill a chance to be heard (and Sill is up to snuff, too). The most arresting part of this track, however, is a section where Drexler and Sill drop out, leaving Allred's plump and glorious trombone tone to duke it out with drummer Eddie Metz. What's more, the stair-climbing head of this track is a good showcase for Allred's precision. As good as this entire disc is, this cut alone is worth the price of admission.
On the Latinate "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," "Red Leopard," "Focused" and elsewhere, Allred's trombone really sounds here and there like a sax. A real tenor man shows up on this track, Rex Wertz, and he and Allred trade clean and cheerful lines with an admirably relaxed precision.
Ballads include "My Inclination," where Allred's blue flame smolders admirably and Drexler chips in with a brief but shimmering solo, a yearning take on "My Romance" to wrap up the disc, and "But Beautiful." On the latter appear Lisa Ferrigno, credited with "violins," and John Katalenic ("synth strings"). Allred sounds at home against this backing, but it won't be to everyone's taste.
But otherwise, this one is a first rate entry from this extremely talented trombonist, and a delightfully cheering disc to listen to. May he record many more.