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Harry Allen and the Physics of the Tenor Saxophone

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In Robert Altman's most underappreciated film Kansas City there is a memorable scene for music fans. In the 1930's at the Hey Hey club (one of the town's hotter venues) some of the more notable K.C. folk (politicians, society matrons, wealthy denizens) are having a good time. Everyone in town recognizes these eminent figures but ignores the black jazz musicians playing in the background. But for the film audience the musicians--Lester Young, Count Basie, Mary Lou Williams, Coleman Hawkins, Jay McShann and a young Charlie Parker--are the celebrities. History has made them famous and the white notables of 1930 have ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ehud Asherie with Harry Allen: Lower East Side

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In this day and age, when shock-and-awe maneuvers and new-thing sounds tend to get all the plaudits and press in jazz, it says a lot when a throwback duo date is widely admired by critics and fans alike. Such was the case with pianist Ehud Asherie's Upper West Side (Posi-Tone, 2012), which brought him into contact with like-minded saxophonist Harry Allen and presented a program of old chestnuts that were revived by their expert hands. Now, a year after that album first appeared in the marketplace, its companion piece has come to light. Upper West Side and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ehud Asherie and Harry Allen: Lower East Side

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Pianist Ehud Asherie and tenor saxophonist Harry Allen are established musical partners with a shared fondness for a time when songwriting giants like Irving Berlin and Richard Rodgers were at their creative zeniths. Lower East Side is the pair's second duo outing, following on from Upper West Side (Posi-Tone, 2012), and once again the two demonstrate how this fondness for a bygone era can still produce fresh and joyous music.The journey from Upper West Side to Lower East Side is geographically short--just a few miles. Musically, Esherie and Allen's journey is as brief as can be. Both albums ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Harry Allen / Scott Hamilton: ‘Round Midnight

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Harry Allen and Scott Hamilton are two veteran tenor saxophonists whose individual careers have not prevented them from maintaining a friendship or performing together whenever possible. Their third joint project, Round Midnight presents new interpretations of nine standards in a quintet format offering far more solos than normally found in a group featuring one main artist. Their pairing is reminiscent of the great tenor team of Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, and builds on the foundation of other such bands from the past like that of the Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt and the Eddie “Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Griffin ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Harry Allen / Scott Hamilton: ‘Round Midnight

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Johannes Brahms was called “the keeper of the flame" for Beethoven. Tenor saxophonist Harry Allen and Scott Hamilton are the same keepers for a tenor tradition that existed from the swing era through hard bop. The pair champions a sound and method established by Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Lester Young: a broad, dense tone, both confident and hesitant. Allen and Hamilton highlight a stylistic history that ended in 1956 when Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane recorded “Tenor Madness." This music is romantic, balladic and, when played up-tempo, swinging. 'Round Midnight is a predictable recording, which is ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ehud Asherie with Harry Allen: Upper West Side

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Upper West Side is as fine a duet album as has been made by a pianist with another instrumentalist. This declaration may very possibly include the albums made by Hank Jones with Tommy Flanagan and Oscar Peterson with Dizzy Gillespie. It is a credit to pianist Ehud Asherie that he made this album at such a young age in comparison to the masters who have been mentioned in the same breath, perhaps with seeming blasphemy. However, considering Asherie's instrumental mastery, the superiority of his musical ideation, the often surprising turns of his improvisations, and--this is probably of paramount importance--his understanding ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ehud Asherie with Harry Allen: Upper West Side

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Wherever tenor saxophonist Harry Allen shows up, there is sure to be a major outbreak of Old School. Along with Scott Hamilton, Allen is a keeper of the flame encompassing saxophone practice from Frankie Trumbauer to Lester Young. Pianist Ehud Asherie is cut from the same bolt as Ralph Sutton and Dick Hyman. His previous Posi-Tone recordings, Look Out (2007), Modern Life (2010), and Organic (2010) all demonstrate that Asherie is well-schooled in stride and modern keyboard styles, as well as Chitlin' Circuit greasy organ jazz.In combination with Allen, Asherie entertains his love of 1930s piano (Earl Hines, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ehud Asherie with Harry Allen: Upper West Side

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The closing track on pianist Ehud Asherie's Modern Life (Posi-Tone, 2010), whether intentional or not, came to serve as musical foreshadowing for this album. Modern Life has Asherie leading a crack quartet through a program of largely lesser-performed gems by cream-of-the-crop composers like George Gershwin, Jerome Kern and Tadd Dameron, but when the album reaches its conclusion the rhythm section is relieved of its duties, while tenor saxophonist Harry Allen stays onboard for an emotionally riveting two-man take on Billy Strayhorn's “A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing." Three months later, this pair would find itself in a Brooklyn recording studio, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Harry Allen: Rhythm on the River

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Tenor saxophonist Harry Allen is a keeper of the flame ignited by the likes of Zoot Sims and Al Cohn. Whilst his music's nowhere near any cutting edge, he falls back upon the staples of the swing thru bop vocabulary like a man to the manner born and, over the course of this river-related program, demonstrates just how much the music means to him. The persuasiveness of his playing stems in part from his authority. To hear him working his way through “Down by the River" is to know this. He has a way of going about ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Larry Goldings and Harry Allen: When Larry Met Harry

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There is always a place in the world for beautifully played jazz, where the saxophonist doesn't sound like he's trying to inflict pain on his horn, and the pianist just hits all the right notes. Tenor player Harry Allen and his keyboard partner, Larry Goldings, are the musicians, and the album is When Larry Met Harryl. Of the twelve tracks on the record, eight were penned by Goldings, which is noteworthy because they would sound right at home with a 1950s Ben Webster combo playing standards. They are mostly slow to mid-tempo tunes with an emphasis on ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ehud Asherie featuring Harry Allen: Modern Life

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It is rare indeed to discover a young pianist, so obviously neither a baby nor a Baby Boomer, who is steeped in the history and tradition of American music from the turn of the twentieth century onwards. To find he can write a mean blues is a wonder and more than a joy to hear. To then get him in the studio in the company of someone like tenor saxophonist Harry Allen must be any producer's dream, but Marc Free made it happen. Ehud Asherie and Harry Allen are swinging madly on Modern Life. The two musicians seem soul brothers ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Cedric Caillaud Trio & Harry Allen: Emma's Groove

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What if bassist Cedric Caillaud's sophomore effort had been recorded at Rudy van Gelder's fabled Englewood Cliffs studio and released on Blue Note Records in 1959, rather than France in 2009? The sound of Patrick Cabon's piano might have been slightly less warm (succumbing to engineer van Gelder's tendency to render pianos with a metallic tinge). Probably a bit of the players phrasing might have struck some listeners as vaguely futuristic--but not too much, really.Overall, though, qualities appreciated fifty years ago are found here, as evidenced by the quartet's capacity to seize the blues vigorously--as on “The JAMFs ...

BAILEY'S BUNDLES

The State of Harry Allen 2010

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Tenor saxophonist Harry Allen is a keeper of the flame. His understated and well- studied saxophone style covers everyone from Frankie Trumbauer to Coleman Hawkins. He is a scholar of melody and vibe, and has the keen ability to interpret standards with an uncanny and swinging precision that should be used as the standard for jazz saxophone. Allen has many notable releases, including, in 2009-2010, New York State of Mind and his appearance on Nilson Matta's Copacabana.

Harry AllenNew York State of MindChallenge Records2009

New York State of Mind is Allen's second ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Harry Allen: New York State of Mind

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The big, fat, warm and tender tone of Harry Allen's tenor saxophone is impossible to miss. There is no one who sounds quite like him, and that is probably because no other saxophonist has embraced the tenor horn in a similar way. No one since Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster has mined the wealth of that instrument for its burnished elegant timbre except Harry Allen. Following the success of Hits by Brits (Challenge Records, 2007), comes New York State of Mind, a record that leaps into Big Apple madness with eleven standards that celebrate its myriad moods. If there had ...



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