391

Harry Allen: New York State of Mind

Raul d'Gama Rose By

Sign in to view read count
Harry Allen: New York State of Mind The big, fat, warm and tender tone of Harry Allen's tenor saxophone is impossible to miss. There is no one who sounds quite like him, and that is probably because no other saxophonist has embraced the tenor horn in a similar way. No one since Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster has mined the wealth of that instrument for its burnished elegant timbre except Harry Allen. Following the success of Hits by Brits (Challenge Records, 2007), comes New York State of Mind, a record that leaps into Big Apple madness with eleven standards that celebrate its myriad moods. If there had been any doubt about the relevance of such music, Allen puts it to rest.

Allen infuses relatively older tunes with a great deal of contemporary splendor. His takes on the Don Henley hit "New York Minute" (written by Henley, Danny Kortchmar, and Jai Winding), Paul Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair," and Herbie Hancock / Jean Hancock's "Manhattan," are all made new in a magical way. Each song offers an earful of glorious colors and textures of the city beloved by some of music's finest; the mad rush for recognition in an idiom is at once tender, spunky and always prismatic.

Other examples abound. The swinging pulse of "Puttin' on the Ritz" recalls the wizardry-in-tap-step of Fred Astaire, while "Harlem Nocturne" sparkles in that languid, glacial manner that might wake the moon. "Broadway Melody," Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind" and Vernon Duke's classic, "Autumn in New York" echo with mighty feelings of tenderness. "New York, New York" makes sparks fly with in the fire of the interpretations. There are other ballads that regale the ear with brilliance, superb execution and singular warmth that can only come from living and breathing the music as only Harry Allen can. If there is one question mark on repertoire here, it is probably that the absence of "Take the A-Train" or even "Lush Life" is strongly felt, as few masters had a feel for New York like Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.

Allen is still at the top of his game. His absolute command of melody is only equaled by his ability to create rich layers of harmony. His solos are spry and despite their inventive elegance there is a singular logic to each one as he negotiates the idiom of each song. Trombonist John Allred creates swirls of romance around Allen both in ensemble passages as well in his solos. He is regal and plays with brazen creativity in the upper register. He is especially spectacular in both his contrapuntal opening on "New York, New York" and his inside-out solo, which is devastatingly beautiful. Rossano Sportiello has probably the most sublime technique and expression to adorn the ebony and ivory. And Allen could not expect a better rhythm section than bassist Joel Forbes and drummer Chuck Riggs. So it is possible to get over the minor mishap with repertoire because of the fine musicians on this record.


Track Listing: Puttin' on the Ritz; Harlem Nocturne; Broadway Melody; Autumn in New York; Down in the Depths of the 90th Floor; Sidewalks of New York; New York State of Mind; Rose of Washington Square; New York, New York; Chinatown My Chinatown; Manhattan Serenade.

Personnel: Harry Allen: tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello: piano; Joel Forbes: bass; Chuck Riggs: drums; John Allred: trombone (1, 4, 6, 8-10).

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Challenge Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 26, 2017
Read This Is Nate Najar CD/LP/Track Review This Is Nate Najar
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Joy Comes Back CD/LP/Track Review Joy Comes Back
by James Nadal
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Apocalypse CD/LP/Track Review Apocalypse
by Julian Derry
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "Shovel Down" CD/LP/Track Review Shovel Down
by Doug Collette
Published: December 18, 2016
Read "Twin Talk" CD/LP/Track Review Twin Talk
by Mark F. Turner
Published: September 19, 2016
Read "Spirit Forward" CD/LP/Track Review Spirit Forward
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 7, 2016
Read "Rings" CD/LP/Track Review Rings
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: July 3, 2016
Read "Pássaros: The Foundation of the Island" CD/LP/Track Review Pássaros: The Foundation of the Island
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: July 6, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!