John Allred, who has paid his dues in a number of settings from trad to swing and beyond, plays it “straight” all the way on Focused,
and in so doing reveals himself to be one of the most accomplished mainstream Jazz trombonists you’ve never heard. When a trombonist as proficient as Don Sebesky says of Allred, ”[he] plays the way I always wanted to,” one has to bend an ear and listen closely to what’s going down. There are countless moments (on “Spring Can Really Hang You Up,” “On the Street Where You Live,” “My Romance” and elsewhere) when one could almost swear he was hearing the great Carl Fontana. Allred’s chops aren’t quite Rosolino–like, but to be fair, there was only one Frank Rosolino, the yardstick by which all trombonists must be measured, and Allred at least comes within sliding distance of Rosolino’s mind–boggling technical wizardry (and skates closest perhaps on “Street,” Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale” and Sebesky’s cheery flag–waver, “Are We Having Fun Yet”). He’s consistently resourceful and as comfortable in the upper register as, say, Bill Watrous (for confirmation, check out “But Beautiful”). Besides playing marvelously, Allred wrote four bright, lyrical tunes (“My Inclination,” “Easy Does It,” “Focused,” “Red Leopard”), each of which seems tailor–made for his buoyant trombone, and arranged all but “Spring” and “But Beautiful,” which were arranged by John Katalenic. Also commendable is the leader’s “no–name” rhythm section, each of whom contributes markedly to the success of the endeavor — pianist Drexler in particular is a pleasure to hear — and tenor saxophonist Wertz, another unknown who should be far better known. Completing the splendid program are charming originals by Dave Brubeck (“Blues for Mr. Broadway”) and Keith Jarrett (“Lucky Southern”). It took two years to move the session from recording studio to disc — and it was worth the wait. Impressive in every way.
Track listing: Love for Sale; Blues for Mister Broadway; My Inclination; On the Street Where You Live; Easy Does It; Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most; Focused; Lucky Southern; But Beautiful; Red Leopard; Are We Having Fun Yet; My Romance (63:56).