You have to love how a sommelier might describe a certain wine. It has "a jammy taste with a sweet attack, leather, tobacco, and very muscular with integrated wood." Listening to saxophonist Kris Allen's Beloved
reminds us that jazz listeners use similar terms to describe the music they're hearing. Allen's alto saxophone is flavored with hints of Bobby Watson
, the body feel of Paul Desmond
, and the terrior of Hartford. In other words, it tastes great.
The Hartford reference is to that of Allen's mentor, the late Jackie McLean
, who taught the saxophonist and eventually had Allen take over some of his teaching responsibilities at the Hartt School of Music. In Allen's playing you hear the early McLean, his 1950's music, that which was under the sway of Charlie Parker
. But this is no retro sound-alike recording. His mash-up of the song "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey" with seventeen Parker signature riffs on "Bird Bailey" evidences how, just like wine, a crafted blend can refresh an old favorite grape varietal. This particular piece is also the only one in which he swaps his alto for a soprano saxophone, and the tannins of, let's say, Branford Marsalis
The blend is not just the music he has written, all original. Allen's piano-less quartet finds him with tenor saxophonist Frank Kozyra, bassist Luques Curtis
, Sean Jones
, Eddie Palmieri
) and drummer Jonathan Barber
). The paring of Allen and Kozyra, like McLean and Hank Mobley
, or Sonny Stitt
and Gene Ammons
complements, not like wine and cheese, but cabernet and, well, more cabernet. They weave a sound on the Latin-spiced "Flores" that exhibits their simpatico nature. One solos, the other supports, capturing magic in a bottle. Allen's music is written to be competitive without being combative, "Hate The Game," and wistful without sentimentality, "More Yeah." The latter piece a demonstration how a simple melody can blossom into a piece of beautiful music. Each tune is quite delicious.
Besides, after a few glasses of wine and a spin through Beloved
you may actually be able cavort to the infamous quote, "talking about music is like dancing about architecture."
Lowborn (Proverbs 62:9); Mandy Have Mercy; Lord Help My Unbelief; Flores; One
For Rory; Bird Bailey; Beloved; Hate The Game; More Yeah; Threequel.
Kris Allen: alto saxophone, soprano saxophones; Frank Kozyra: tenor saxophone;
Luques Curtis: bass; Jonathan Barber: drums.