Bending the Mainstream: Harry Allen, Nicki Parrott & Eddie Metz Jr.

Elliott Simon By

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Nicki Parrott

Fly Me to the Moon

Venus Records


The Eddie Metz Jr. Trio

Bridging the Gap

Arbors Records


Stan Getz characterized the challenge that tenor saxophonists face as singing perfectly on an imperfect instrument. Harry Allen takes up Getz' challenge with a beautiful instrumental voice that hearkens back to the wonderfully vocal playing of the master himself. While Allen has been a prolific leader over the past two decades he lends his resonant horn to two sessions that show the continued vibrancy of the mainstream. Bassist/vocalist Nicki Parrott's Fly Me to the Moon places this first-call bassist in the context of a world- class band for a wonderful trip through a standards-based program that takes more than a few interesting turns. Parrott and Allen then join drummer Eddie Metz Jr. for Bridging the Gap, a swinging session that while likewise steeped in standards, veers off the straight-ahead bending into pop, rock and blues.

Nicki Parrott's bass playing is elegant yet contains a depth of expression that can both break your heart and increase your blood pressure. This, her second session as a leader for the Japanese Venus label, showcases her cool vocals and emotive bass alongside Allen's exquisite horn, pianist John di Martino's inventive improvising, sister Lisa Parrott's hot baritone and soprano sax playing, drummer Billy Drummond's easy swinging beats and guitar stylings of Mark Sganga. Allen's mellow horn is a delight and the perfect counterpoint to Nicki's vocals on ballads like "I Love the Way You're Breakin' My Heart" and "Do It Again". Perhaps more intriguing though are the band's performances of the non-traditional. These include their jazz/pop treatment of Stevie Wonder's "I Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer," a starkly beautiful "La Vie En Rose" and a tribute to the sisters' Australian birthplace with the coolest "Waltzing Matilda" on record.

The Eddie Metz Jr. trio consists of the leader's consistently in-the-pocket stick and brush work, Parrott's aforementioned artistic bass and Rossano Sportiello's piano, equally at home playing stride, classical, bop and straight-ahead. Allen's horn beautifully harmonizes with John Allred's versatile trombone on several of these cuts. Metz can swing with the best drummers but he does so in a way that promotes cohesion. The standards are here of course, with the piano trio initially gelling on Rodgers-Hart's "Falling in Love with Love" and Allen excelling on Irving Berlin's "Count Your Blessings". A swinging version of Steely Dan's "Bodhisattva," a sultry Parrott vocal on "One Less Bell to Answer," a bossa trombone treatment of Gino Vanelli's "Crazy Life" and Sportiello's stride side exposed on "Little Girl" make this release live up to its moniker in unexpected ways.

Tracks and Personnel

Fly Me to the Moon

Tracks: Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen; I Love The Way You're Breakin' My Heart; Do It Again; Fly Me To The Moon; La Vie En Rose; Waltzing Matilda; I Never Had A Chance; Evil Gal Blues; For All We Know; Charade; I Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer; Them There Eyes; Two For The Road.

Personnel: Nicki Parrott: vocal & bass; John Di Martino: piano; Lisa Parrott: baritone saxophone & soprano saxophone; Mark Sganga: guitar; Harry Allen: tenor saxophone; Billy Drummond: drums.

Bridging the Gap

Tracks: Falling In Love With Love; Huggin´ Higgins; Overjoyed; I'm Old Fashioned; Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep); Bodhisattva; NER Blues; One Less Bell to Answer; The More I See You; Crazy Life; Little Girl; More Than You Know; Gotta Get a Hold of Myself.

Personnel: Eddie Metz Jr.: drums; Rossano Sportiellol: piano; Nicki Parrott: bass, vocal (8); Harry Allen: tenor saxophone (2, 5, 6, 8, 13); John Allred: trombone (2, 6, 8, 10, 13).

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