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Lolly Allen: Coming Home

Jack Bowers By

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There was a time, and it wasn't that long ago, when women in jazz—apart from singers and the occasional pianist—were seen by many observers as unsolicited interlopers whose impact in what was essentially a male bastion could be no more than minimal at best. Needless to say that is no longer the case, as women's voices have become ever stronger and more ubiquitous, no longer confined to "traditional" roles once largely defined by their male peers. Today's women not only sing or play piano, they have become proficient on brass, woodwinds, bass, drums and other instruments once thought to be the exclusive province of men, not only holding their own but in many cases even outshining their male counterparts.

Which is a digressive way of introducing the reader to vibraphonist Lolly Allen, whose second album, Coming Home, displays her considerable talents as leader, composer and, most of all, swinging jazz musician in a line that marches forward from Milt Jackson, Lionel Hampton and Victor Feldman to Gary Burton, Cal Tjader, Bobby Hutcherson and so many other innovators. Shortly before the album's release, it was both suitable and enlightening that Allen's quintet shared the stage with another of those giants, ninety-year-old Terry Gibbs, on a program titled The Jazz Torch (available on YouTube). Their quick-handed exchanges were electric, with Allen's deep and broad-beamed sound deftly complementing Gibbs' brighter and more delicate touch.

Which is well and good, but what has it to do with Coming Home? Nothing directly, but it does send a clear signal that Allen is among a group of talented young musicians who are poised and ready to form a vanguard whose purpose is to assume the hallowed jazz legacy and carry it to even greater heights. Some of those relative newcomers (saxophonist Danny Janklow, pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Jordan Richardson) are members of Allen's ensemble, blending seamlessly with seasoned pros Tom Owens (piano) and alternating drummers Paul Kreibich and Kendall Kay. Four more savvy masters—trumpeter Carl Saunders, trombonist Scott Whitfield, guitarist Larry Koonse and baritone saxophonist Adam Schroeder—enlarge the group from quintet to nonet on two numbers: Saunders' waggish "Lolly's Folly" and Luiz Bonfa's soul-soaked "Gentle Rain."

Another of Allen's strengths lies in her perceptive choice of material, from Horace Silver's sunny opener, "The Hippest Cat in Hollywood," to Dizzy Gillespie's fast-moving "Bebop," which brings down the curtain on an emphatic note. Sandwiched between, besides the songs already mentioned, are Tadd Dameron's warm-hearted "If You Could See Me Now," Mario Bauza's beguiling "Mambo Inn," Antonio Carlos Jobim's zephyr-like "O Grande Amor" and a pair of sparkling originals by Allen, "Coming Home" and "Little Hummingbird." The ensembles give each of them an ebullient ride with nimble solos all around, especially by Allen and Janklow (on alto or tenor), Saunders and Nelson on "Lolly's Folly," Whitfield and Allen on "Gentle Rain." If jazz's elder statesmen aren't quite ready to step aside, they should at least be looking over their collective shoulders, as a new wave of young artists, led by female prodigies like Allen, has washed ashore to challenge and perhaps upend the status quo.

Track Listing

The Hippest Cat in Hollywood; Coming Home; Little Hummingbird; Emily; Lolly’s Folly; Gentle Rain; If You Could See Me Now; Mambo Inn; O Grande Amor; Bebop.

Personnel

Lolly Allen: vibraphone; Danny Janklow: alto, tenor sax; Carl Saunders: trumpet (5, 6); Adam Schroeder: baritone sax (5, 6); Scott Whitfield: trombone (5, 6); Larry Koonse: guitar (5, 6); Josh Nelson: piano (1, 2, 5-8); Tom Owens: piano (3, 4, 9, 10); Jordan Richards: bass; Kendall Kay: drums (1, 5-7); Paul Kreibich: drums (2-4, 8-10).

Additional information

Title: Coming Home | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: OA2 Records

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