Conservatory-educated jazz musicians often follow a similar developmental path as they mature, typically expanding the relatively narrow focus of their academic training to reexamine the non-jazz related music styles that initially inspired them. Take the young lions of the pre-millennial era for example; most have extended their purview beyond straight-ahead hard bop to incorporate aspects of the funk, r&b and soul music they grew up with. The same paradigm exists for their avant-garde counterparts, whose demographic is generally raised on rock. Bassist and composer Ben Allison is indicative of the latter group; The Stars Look Very Different Today, ...read more
Gradually moving away from the chamber music-like aesthetic of his Medicine Wheel and Peace Pipe ensembles of the nineties, bassist Ben Allison has begun embracing his formative influences, leaning towards a slightly more rock-oriented sound. Think Free is his third Palmetto album in as many years, thematically following Little Things Run the World (2008) and Cowboy Justice (2006). Looking beyond traditional jazz for inspiration, Allison weaves bittersweet pop melodies, folksy Americana, and subtle rock music flourishes into an evocative sonic tapestry teeming with opulent lyricism. Joined by youthful peers well versed in the same populist strains, Allison's quintet ...read more
On his eighth album, Little Things Run The World, bassist/composer Ben Allison delves further into the cinematic Americana explored on his previous release, Cowboy Justice (Palmetto, 2007). Inspired by a quote from biodiversity expert E.O. Wilson, the album features a selection of multi-layered tunes that rely on structural interdependency as much as the social organisms Wilson studied. Naming the ensemble Man Size Safe, after a news item about the ominous item located in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, Allison expresses his dissatisfaction with the current political climate through titling--similar to a previous era's socially active jazz ...read more
Ben Allison Cowboy Justice Palmetto Records 2006 Michael Bates' Outside Sources A Fine Balance Between the Lines 2006 Bands led by bassists are something of a novelty, even today. From the blowing sessions led by Paul Chambers in the 1950s, to Mingus' innovations, and on to modern day masters like Mario Pavone, the gentle giant of jazz axes has, in a leadership role, a limited but colorful history. In the great tradition of these ...read more
Bassist Ben Allison was a virtual unknown when this album was originally released by Palmetto in 1998. After Seven Arrows (Koch, 1996), this was Allison's first major release. Combining conservatory training, ethnic/world music fusions, post-bop energy and free-jazz vigor, Allison and company were on the cusp of a new movement. Listening to this recording in retrospect reveals a blueprint for the new breed of jazz improviser. Medicine Wheel is a watershed moment in end of the century East Coast jazz.
The personnel list reveals a virtual who's who of emerging talent. Saxophonists Ted Nash and Michael Blake have ...read more
Ben Allison's modern jazz quartet brings a fresh spirit to his latest project with sensual impressions that relate to the world around us. For his original compositions, the bassist has borrowed from the nightly news, world affairs, social ills and reflections on the way things are around us. The result is a varied soundscape of lovely melodies filled with spontaneity and charm.
Trumpeter Ron Horton expresses with heartfelt emotion. His natural tone and passionate demeanor bring his message direct from the soul. Guitarist Steve Cardenas adds a lyrical flavor that colors the session with contemporary coolness, while drummer ...read more
Cowboy Justice sticks to the basics. Each tune opens with a repeated riff that is then accented by the other instruments, heavy on layered harmonies. Ben Allison is one of the founding members of the non-profit Jazz Composers Collective, a hub for young, forward-thinking talent, and Cowboy Justice has the feel of a workshop the Collective might put on, a testing ground for basic melodic ideas yet to be fully fleshed out.The first tune, Tricky Dick," begins with a strummed electric guitar riff, which Ron Horton's trumpet then circles around with brief, round-toned stabs, until he introduces the ...read more