How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Dave Allen's Real and Imagined is of particular interest as it exposes refreshing music that seemingly comes out of nowhere, causing you to wonder why you haven't heard of the artist before.
But Allen is no neophyte, performing and thriving in NYC's diverse jazz environment for a number of years. Real and Imagined is his second release, following Untold Stories (Fresh Sound, 2005), featuring his working quartet consisting of the potent rhythm section of bassist Drew Gress and drummer Mark Ferber, plus the sure voice of tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake.
Allen has what could be dubbed as "string-imagination, the ability to quickly form and rethink patterns like moving waterflowing, lucid and spontaneous, paired with superior comping skillsfilling in the gaps with creative touches and chord-work. But of equal importance, the band is tight and the music is immersive. Performed without the use of techno effects and overdubbing, the tone of this effort is as forward-thinking as it comes.
It's rare to find a balanced sax/guitar-lead quartet but Allen and Blake make a fine team, negotiating themes in simpatico on the hip serpentine pattern of "Slipping Glimpser. Or take the bopping "Untold Story, as Blake's tenor echoes a Michael Brecker-like intensity as Allen adds some Wes Montgomery chordspaving the way for memorable solos as the rhythm section flawlessly keeps the arduous time in check.
"Intimate Distance is organic; Gress delivers a powerful solo, followed by Allen's free lines as the Latin-tinged cadence is driven by Ferber's insistent traps. A minimalist approach on "Musing, funky interactive changes on "Real and Imagined, and the swagger of "Mantra, are all connected sections of this recording's collage.
From beginning to end the recording has the pulse of contemporary jazz with roots, vision, and spontaneity. Take into account a plethora of good guitar-based recordings and Real and Imagined stands toe-to-toe with any of them.