tenor saxophonist, Harry Allen, JazzNow Johnny Varro, Phil Flanigan, Randy Reinhart, Joel Helleny, Zoot, jazz cd
 
 
   


All About Jazz


Cocktails For Two
Harry Allen and Joe Temperley | Sackville (2007)

September 7, 2007


Swing is the thing on this enormously enjoyable outing by baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley and tenor saxophonist Harry Allen. The album features the 77-year-old Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra stalwart Temperley and the 40-year-old ex-wunderkind Allen leading a superbly sympathetic rhythm section (John Bunch on piano, Greg Cohen on bass and Jake Hanna on drums) in front of an appreciative audience at the Rocky Mountain Jazz Party in Denver.

This isn’t a take-no-prisoners saxophone battle in the mold of the legendary face-offs between tenor titans like Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt. Instead, it’s a gentler affair, a meeting of complementary souls, who, whether playing in tandem or on their own, share an unswerving dedication to swing.

The mood is warm and congenial as the two saxophonists trade smooth, expressive solos on standards like “Tangerine,” “I’ve Got the World on a String” and “Sweet and Lovely.” Each gets a ballad feature too, with Allen showcasing his breathy, Stan Getz-inspired tenor on “Everything Happens To Me” and Temperley his elegant baritone on “Polka Dots and Moonbeams.”

While it’s a mostly relaxed affair, the group revs things up on a pair of Ellington and Basie classics, “In A Mellotone” and “Jumpin’ at the Woodside,” on which Allen and Temperley evoke a big-band horn section all by themselves. There’s nothing particularly new or innovative here, just great jazz played beautifully by an exceptional group of musicians.

Track listing: Cocktails For Two; Blues In the Closet; My Romance; I've Got the World On a String; Tangerine, Everything Happens To Me; Polka Dots & Moonbeams; In a Mellotone; Sweet & Lovely; Jumpin' At the Woodside.
Personnel: Harry Allen: tenor saxophone; Joe Temperley: baritone saxophone; John Bunch: piano; Greg Cohen: bass; Jake Hanna: drums.
Style: Dixieland/New Orleans/Swing | Published: September 07, 2007


- Joel Roberts




The Village Voice

September 2007


Speaking of which, the Harry Allen–Joe Cohn Quartet's Music from "Guys and Dolls" is the jewel of that label's catalog. "Fugue for Tinhorns" permits the tenorist and guitarist to exercise their flair for improvised counterpoint (their quartet's trademark), but the real stars are the singers. Eddie Erickson's suave "Adelaide" is a match for Sinatra's or composer Frank Loesser's, and the infallible Rebecca Kilgore assists in swinging the dickens out of "Marry the Man Today" (still a march, but phrasing it behind the beat makes all the difference). Like many on Arbors' roster, Allen is one younger musician with a genuine feel for bygone songs and styles, and on "I'll Know," when he underscores the vulnerability of Loesser's melody by letting us hear the air shivering from his mouthpiece (the way Stan Getz used to do), it's enough to make you wonder if the old songs aren't still best after all.


- Francis Davis, The Village Voice


Jersey Jazz

By Joe Lang
NJJS Music Committee Chair

Summer 2007


“Guys and Dolls” is one of the truly great theatre musicals. The HARRY ALLEN/JOE COHN QUARTET is among the best working groups in jazz today. Turn these cats loose on the “Guys and Dolls” score, add in the marvelous vocal talents of REBECCA KILGORE and EDDIE ERICKSON and you get one hell of an album, Music from Guys and Dolls (Arbors – 19354). The disc is wonderfully programmed. They kick things off with a hip instrumental take on “Guys and Dolls,” and close with a reprise of the same song with Kilgore and Erickson adding some vocal embellishments. In between, they explore 13 other tunes from the show with four instrumentals, three vocals each from the two singers, and three tracks with vocal duets. The quartet, with Allen on tenor sax, Cohn on guitar, Joel Forbes on bass and Chuck Riggs on drums, is — as usual — imaginative and swinging. Kilgore and Erickson know how to put over any type of material from the comic to the romantic. Kilgore is smooth of voice, and would have been, had she been born earlier, a superlative big band singer. Erickson’s voice is not a classic sounding one, reminding me a bit of a slightly more refined Jack Sheldon, but he has a great sense of jazz phrasing, and hits all of the notes right on. “Guys and Dolls” is a perfect score for exploration by jazz musicians, and Allen, Cohn and company do it full justice.

- Joe Lang, NJJS Music Committee Chair


HARRY ALLEN
Jazz for the Heart

McMahon Jazz Medicine

Spring 2007


Tenor saxophonist Harry Allen loves to rear back and fire straight-ahead solos that burn like a 98 m.p.h. fast ball.

But like all big league saxophonists with a flair for drama, he also loves to use ballads as his changeup.

In this whole-hearted homage to the ballad form, Allen puts a fresh spin on such Great American Songbook standards as "Skylark" and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes."

Never getting mired in one romantic groove—an occupational hazard plaguing many all-ballad albums-- Allen creates a variety of moods.

Instead of sounding like just another litany of fleshless venial sins, his warm, soulful "I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You"), exudes hints of carnal content. Allen’s cryptic "Mona Lisa" is shrouded in more alluring mystery than "The Da Vinci Code." Much sweetness and light beam through his luminous reflection on "Moonlight in Vermont"
"In the Wee Small Hours (of the Morning)" –which would have been a better title for this album with its smoky, after-hours ambience—radiates a Frank Sinatra-like cachet. A cocktail mix of the sad and the reflective with the hip and the cool, this is a nocturnal, barroom voyage into the dark night of the soul.

Free of the syrupy string arrangements that frequently sugarcoat ballad albums, Allen enjoys the freedom of playing in a quintet setting. Pianist John Bunch and guitarist Joe Cohn standout among his savvy, saccharine-free sidemen.

- Owen McNally


CJ Entertainment
The Topeka Capital-Journal

Upbeat tunes cook at TJW

December 12, 2006


Special to The Capital-Journal
On Sunday afternoon, the jazz de jour cooked up for a full house of Topeka Jazz Workshop patrons at the Ramada simmered with down-home satisfaction thanks to the cordon bleu recipes of trumpeter-vocalist Byron Stripling and tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, two of jazz's most engaging performers.

Stripling, a veteran of the bands of Count Basie, Woody Herman and Lionel Hampton, is a cheerful extrovert whose clarion trumpet speaks with the accents of traditionalists such as Louis Armstrong and modernists like Dizzy Gillespie. On an up-tempo jog along "Broadway," for example, Stripling let loose boppish volleys that screamed to the sky.

Allen, who won local fans at the July 2006 Memorial Concert Tribute to Jim Monroe, is a well-traveled New Yorker whose soulful tenor saxophone has lifted bandstands around the globe. While conjuring up echoes of Lester Young and Youngian disciples like Stan Getz and Zoot Sims, Allen whispered with a plaintiveness that in tunes like "Teach Me Tonight" raised goose bumps.

The coupling of the brash Stripling and reflective Allen was inspired. As Stripling gave full-bodied voice to the bluesy "I Had a Woman," Allen, like a Euripidean Greek chorus, commented on being "lonesome and blue" with a tear-stained soliloquy that moved both body and soul.

At up-tempos, the emotional register switched to sunny and warm. On a hard-charging romp through Duke Ellington's "Cottontail," for example, Allen smoked a set of choruses exploiting the tenor's rich lower register as well as its fly-me-to-the-moon stratospherics. Stripling, for his part, swung and bopped with furious abandon.

At one point, Stripling asked the audience to "please join Harry and me in acknowledging this wonderful rhythm section," referring to the redoubtable trio of pianist Paul Smith, bassist Gerald Spaits and drummer Tommy Ruskin, who kept rhythmic fires burning bright.

Smith was superb. In Stripling's jaunty stroll on "Sunny Side of the Street," the pianist painted with blues worthy of Picasso. For Allen's heart-on-sleeve "Teach Me Tonight," his exquisitely understated solo seemed touched by an angel.

The leaders' deeply felt a cappella essaying of "The Christmas Song" was a particular treat. Putting aside the mike, Stripling sang with a gusto reminiscent of Billy Eckstine as Allen wove shimmering background arabesques.

The afternoon's last course was a savory "Kidney Stew," an insouciant 12-bar blues that bubbled with exhilarating aromas. The effective demonstration of home cooking brought the crowd to its feet with a standing ovation. To master chefs Stripling and Allen, kudos!

-- Chuck Berg, CJ ENTERTAINMENT
Chuck Berg is a professor at The University of Kansas. He can be reached at cberg@ku.edu.



RIFFTIDES
Doug Ramsey on jazz and other matters...

June 19, 2006

Fathers Day Listening
After Fathers Day activity (a present, a card, a few phone calls) subsided, I listened to two CDs, one because the publicist for the band keeps calling and asking if I've heard it, the other because I try never to go longer than a month without a Harry Allen fix.

Harry Allen
Allen is a thirty-nine-year-old tenor saxophonist from Rhode Island who managed to grow up in the post-Coltrane era without absorbing a detectable trace of John Coltrane's influence. His Encyclopedia of Jazz entry says that his favorites are Ben Webster, Stan Getz and Scott Hamilton. Hamilton, twelve years older than Allen, is another Rhode Islander. He, too, is Coltrane-free. Maybe it's something in the salt water taffy up there. Whether or not it was Allen's or Hamilton's aim, by not playing like Coltrane they got attention in a world crowded with Coltrane clones.
In Allen's latest album, Hey, Look Me Over, co-led with guitarist Joe Cohn, his Getz influence is notably apparent in "Danielle," a ballad by Cohn's father Al, whose tenor sax spirit is also present in Allen's playing. They include three of Al's tunes in the CD, and Allen is torrid on "Travisimo." It seems to me that Allen's Ben Webster component is channeled through Zoot Sims, who in his last years increasingly exhibited Webster's gruff tenderness. But he invests full-bore Zootness in his solo on "With the Wind and the Rain in Your Hair."
Since he debuted in the late 1980s, Allen has recorded twenty-eight albums as a leader and appeared on dozens of others. He and Cohn have worked together for fifteen years and developed, among other elements of their ESP, an uncanny approach to counterpoint. It is demonstrated to a faretheewell throughout "Pick Yourself Up." That track and their romp on Charlie Christian's and Benny Goodman's "Seven Come Eleven" make me realize how much I miss the improvisational counterpoint that seems to have largely faded from jazz since Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond, Clark Terry and Bob Brookmeyer, Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz employed it.
Cohn is an ingenious soloist, a resourceful accompanist and, when he is moved to practice it, an effective rhythm guitarist. Throughout the album, bassist Joel Forbes and drummer Chuck Riggs, the other regular members of Allen's quartet demonstrate that having a working band can assure benfits of rhythm and cohesiveness. This is a consistently satisfying group.

-- Doug Ramsey, RIFFTIDES


METRO

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Hearing is believing
Harry Allen and Jacqui Dankworth Ronnie Scott's, London W1

"... There was a further moment of disbelief when Harry Allen's quartet took the stand. How could a man play tenor saxophone with such virtuosity while remaining immobile? But, of course, no one could play like that without being totally relaxed. When Allen's saxophone and Joe Cohn's guitar were chasing each other through ever more intricate patterns the pair of them exchanged no more than the occasional wry glance, while the rest of us were turning blue from holding our breath. It all added up to a perfect demonstration of why listening to music in the intimacy of a room is better than hearing it in a vast concert hall. Ronnie's is soon to be overhauled. Let's hope they
manage to retain the intimacy."

-- Dave Gelly, METRO, London




Wednesday, January 11, 2006

5 stars

"Ronnie Scott’s…Headliner Harry Allen has been described as both ‘the Frank Sinatra of the tenor saxophone’ and, perhaps less generously, as a ‘young fogey’. Though he was only born in 1966, he plays classic swing with the fluency and feeling of the great masters of the mid-century generation.
Coming from his lips, thankfully the idiom still sounds entirely fresh and natural, not at all like retro affectation.
Better still, his sharp-suited American quartet invest what is by definition a discursive musical form with a thrilling sense of purpose: listening to them hurtle through standards such as After You’ve Gone is enough to give you goosebumps.."

-- Robert Shore, Metro (London)


EVENING STANDARD

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Harry Allen, Ronnie Scott's Club

"UNDER the new stewardship of Leo Green, the distinguished line of US tenor-sax aces to tread this famous bandstand seems destined to continue. Harry Allen is an unusual case, though. His unhurried fluency and unfashionably lyrical tone evokes memories of Stan Getz and Zoot Sims.
And co-starring with him this week is Joe Cohn, an excellent all-round guitarist whose late father Al co-led a famous two-tenor group with Sims back in the days when swing was the thing.
Propulsively backed by drummer Chuck Riggs and bassist Joel Forbes, these two sailed elegantly through worthy standards of that era, interchanging ideas on I Get a Kick Out of You, Tea for Two and the beautiful It Never Entered My Mind."

-- Jack Massarick, Evening Standard, London




Monday, August 23, 2004

"Had he been born 40 years earlier (rather than in 1966), he would have been one of the major stars of Jazz at the Philharmonic, giving Flip Phillips and Illinois Jacquet some sleepless nights."

-- Will Friedwald, The New York Sun


The masters of the past may have left this planet, but the masters of tomorrow are here. Harry Allen, twenty-eight, is one of them. Harry Allen has brought back the smooth but fiery, ever-so-missed tenor sound of the 1930s and 1940s. He has a focused yet warm tone that grabs you from the first bars of Linger Awhile. You want ballads? You want bebop? You got it! This CD is real, and the artists are genuine. Get it!

- JazzNow


A Tale of Two Tenors. I have been trying to determine what these two releases have in common. Damn little I finally decided... with the exception that they are both tenor-led dates. I have been listening to them together and decided to write about them together. I figured that the juxtaposition of the two would elicit some interesting thoughts, kind of like Charles Ives pitting two brass bands against one another playing different songs.

Harry Allen and David Murray are vastly different talents. Allen is a chronicler of an earlier saxophone style, a practitioner of such dense talent he sounds as if he invented tenor saxophone performance instead of Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. Allen is the Frank Sinatra of the tenor saxophone: a master interpreter of standards and content to be so. David Murray, on the other hand, is an omnivorous trailblazer, redefining the big band, solo performance, and tenor-organ combo on his 70 plus releases. What is the moral of this story so far? It is that there is plenty of room under the jazz tent for everyone, and the art of jazz is the better for it.

Stan, Al, and Zoot. After several listens, I was able to identify what I liked the most about The King. It is the total absence of John Coltrane (no offense to that legacy). This disc (my first encounter with Allen) struck me as a tenor talent like, but greater than, that of Scott Hamilton's. The King, subtitled as Jazz at the Amerika Haus Hamburg - Volume 1 (I look forward to subsequent volumes) is a live collection of standards that include very fresh, straight performances of "But Beautiful", "Honeysuckle Rose", and "Limehouse Blues". His tone is nothing short of beautiful. A totally original blending of Stan Getz, Al Cohn, and Zoot Sims with a smattering of Ben Webster and Paul Gonsalves, Allen's tone is brisk and clean. Allen's support in pianist John Bunch, bassist Dennis Irwin, and drummer Duffy Jackson is crisp and practiced. I can only hope that providence smiles on me and sees that more music like this is sent to me. Superb, just plain superb.

Go West Young Man. David Murray has been living in Europe, making his way to the states to appear and record. He has recorded every setting: big band to solo saxophone. He is equally adept on tenor and bass clarinet. Here, he assembles a little big band and blows through some absolute genius arrangements of songs by and associated with John Coltrane. Not content to imitate, Murray takes these Coltrane canvases and reframe them in a larger than quartet setting with superb results. The disc is contained between two monumental bookends: the swirling dynamo of "Giant Steps" and the primal spirituality of "Acknowledgement" from A Love Supreme. He blows with dangerous abandon, always hitting his mark while sounding that he at any moment will lose control. Kudos to 'bone player Craig Harris for a super recital. Within lies the spirit of John Coltrane, sensibly interpreted by David Murray.

These two discs sum up the state of the tenor in the year 2000. I can only hope that both of these exceptional artists continue their diverging pilgrimages, providing we listens with delights for years to come.

- C. Michael Bailey


This Christmas jazz release was released in Japan by BMG. The excellent swing tenor Harry Allen (whose tone is reminiscent of Stan Getz ) is heard in a quartet with organist Larry Goldings, guitarist Peter Bernstein , and drummer Jake Hanna. Sticking mostly to familiar Christmas songs, Allen swings his way through such tunes as "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," and "Winter Wonderland," with John Pizzarelli taking a guest vocal on "Blue Christmas." This is a warm and accessible album that has its appeal beyond the jazz audience, although it will be difficult to locate in the U.S.

- Scott Yanow, All Music Guide
on Christmas in Swingtime


Guitarist Howard Alden and his East Coast All-Stars are always a popular draw at the Jubilee but when tenor saxophonist Harry Allen was added to the already pulsating septet, Alden's stock quadrupled in value. The addition of Allen to the fold provided just the right ingredient to give the East Coast All-Stars a more robust sound and swinging drive. That is not to take anything away from clarinet great Allan Vache, who, for many years has been part of Alden's aggregation at the Jubilee. Vache performed at this year's jazz fest as a special guest star.

It has been said that as a reed- man, Allen lives up to Stan Getz's ideal: "My technique, Al Cohn's ideas and Zoot's (Sims) time. The fulfillment of that ideal may be embodied in Harry Allen." Allen's lyrical ideas flowed like fine wine in simplistic and traditional straight-ahead fashion and was void of any undo pretense. His tone is light, yet well-rounded, embodied with a fluency and fertility of imagination. The bottom line is this cat swings and swings hard no matter what the tempo. As a leader in his own right, Allen has recorded ten CDs in the past eight years (His current album, Here's To Zoot, on the BMG label, was released in March). We hope Harry Allen will be a regular at the Jubilee in future years. In addition to Alden and Allen, The East Coast All Stars included Johnny Varro, piano; Phil Flanigan, bass; Randy Reinhart, cornet; Joel Helleny, trombone; Jake Hanna, drums, who, by the way, is the 2002 Jubilee Emperor; and Terrie Richards Alden, featured vocalist.

- www.jazzconnectionmag.com

 


December 7, 2001

Christmas in Swingtime (Koch Jazz). Mr. Allen, a young, traditional, swing-oriented tenor saxophonist, plays the expected numbers ("O Christmas Tree," "White Christmas," etc.), with a band that includes the organist Larry Goldings and the guitarist Peter Bernstein. These songs are thoughtful versions, slow, smoky, and affecting.

-Ben Ratliff



Friday, November 30, 2001

Christmas in Swingtime (Koch Jazz). Tenor saxist Allen serves up solid renditions of such seasonal -- at times, overfamiliar -- songs as "Winter Wonderland" and "Let it Snow." The album rises to more inspired heights on two ballads he poignantly interprets, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas," and on guest John Pizzarelli's cozy -- and swinging -- vocal rendition of "Blue Christmas."

- Chip Deffaa



November 18, 2001

Christmas in Swingtime, Koch Jazz. Tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, his sound and method resonating with the sound of Stan Getz, the drive of Zoot Sims and a sprinkling of Ben Webster's sensuality, takes on a program dominated by familiar themes -- "O Christmas Tree," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (done in a Coltrane-esque 6/4) and "Winter Wonderland," among others.

There's not a lot that can go wrong with a group that includes organist Larry Goldings, guitarist Peter Bernstein, drummer Jake Hanna and, singing the vocal on "Blue Christmas," John Pizzarelli. And nothing does. Setting aside the seasonal program, this is simply a fine, straight-ahead jazz outing. The only thing missing are Alan and Marilyn Bergman's words to Johnny Mandel's tune for "A Christmas Love Song." Too bad Pizzarelli couldn't have been kept in the studio long enough to make the number more complete.



December 2001

Christmas In Swingtime (BMG BVCJ-34011; 68:30) **** Getzian tenorist Allen, organist Larry Goldings, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Jake Hanna nail the seasonal favorites. "Let It Snow!" sports Allen's pale-lager tone and sure-footed swing, along with Golding's resonant sound and fluid lines. On "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," Bernstein's subtly gleaming tone and just-so statements stand out. The tender "White Christmas" is achingly slow, while John Pizzarelli's vocal on "Blue Christmas" has an upbeat bounce.



December 11, 2001

He may be sick of hearing it, but for anyone who desperately misses Stan Getz, Allen - despite the burr he likes to put on his sound - is an answered prayer, a lyrical and engagingly rhythmic player who almost always cuts to the chase. He's here to promote Christmas in Swingtime (Koch), a fine seasonal ornament, but it you want to hear him cut loose, check out Allan and Allen (Nagel-Heyer), with clarinetist Allan Vache and pianist Eddie Higgins.

- Gary Giddins



November 2001

Harry Allen had made the kind of Christmas album that can be listened to all year round. A tenor saxophonist out of the swing-to-bob Stan Getz school, Allen is a lyrical stylist who loves presenting a good melody and then adding his own beautifully constructed variations. While there are few surprises in his holiday repertoire -- you can't go wrong with such treasures as "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," and "White Christmas" -- Allen does throw a curve ball when it comes to the instrumentation of his accompanying ensemble. Where a horn and classic piano-bass-drums rhythm section might be expected, Allen has replaced it with a lean organ-guitar and drums combo. Larry Goldings does a stellar job holding down the keyboard parts, while Peter Bernstein shines on guitar and the impeccable Jake Hanna keeps it all swinging on drums. (John Pizzarelli turns in a neat vocal on "Blue Christmas.") A contemporary classic, Christmas in Swingtime is a holiday gift for any jazz lover.

-Steve Futterman



December 2001

Tenor Saxophonist Harry Allen plays with such a smooth tone, guitarist Peter Bernstein picks with such gentle suavity, Jake Hanna's drumming is so tight and organist Larry Goldings has such a butter-soft touch that Christmas in Swingtime almost lulled Herbie the Crabby Drunken Elf into thinking he liked Xmas music. "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" is rescued from Bruce Springsteen in a supremely lyrical reading, and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is Lee Morgan-funky. Get this off before I begin to like it! And pour me another Tom Collins!



November 22, 2001

Saxophonist Harry Allen gets into the swing of things.

Passing the torch is easy when there's plenty of tinder to keep it burning.

For mainstream sax, the '40's and '50's were a bonfire of melody and swing, with one jazz giant after another carrying on -- and adding to -- the tradition. Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Illinois Jacquet, Stan Getz.

Somewhere in the '60's and '70's though, the flame started to sputter as styles such as fusion, post-bop and the avant-garde made swinging, lyrical sax sound old-school to younger generations.

Tenor man Scott Hamilton was one of the few who picked up the torch at that time, and he and a handful of other horn players have carried on the mainstream tradition tirelessly ever since.

And now the torch has been passed once more to a talented young swinger -- Harry Allen.

The 35-year-old tenor saxophonist with the rich, creamy sound makes his local club debut on Saturday at the Regattabar, as special guest with vocalist Donna Byrne and her quartet.

Both Allen's upbringing and his choice of college played a major roll in the music he plays today.

Allen was raised in Los Angeles and Rhode Island, and his father, Maurice, was a former big band era drummer who had friends such as Paul Gonsalves, Duke Ellington's tenor saxophonist. After starting with accordion and moving on to clarinet, Harry settled on sax at 12.

"When I was very young, I was certainly exposed to a lot of mainstream jazz through records that my father had," Allen recalled. "Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday."

While attending Rutgers University in New Jersey, where his musical world broadened by studying with adventurous pianist Kenny Barron and others, Allen went to a night school of sorts by crossing the Hudson River to hear the greats in Manhattan clubs.

"Illinois Jacquet used to play The Blue Note with his big band," said Allen. "I'd go and sit right in front and just stare at his embouchure while he was playing."

It didn't take long for the reedman to start landing work himself. When he was 20, Barron hired him for a recording date and guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli called him to sub for Sims. Soon, even Goodman hired him.

In the years since, he has recorded several CDs as leader, including a Brazilian album and last year's Harry Allen Plays Ellington Songs (RCA Victor) with pianist Bill Charlap's trio. You also can hear him as guest artist on upcoming discs by Tony Bennett and John Pizzarelli.

Just in time for the holidays comes Allen's latest, Christmas In Swingtime (Koch Jazz) with organist Larry Goldings, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Jake Hanna. They cover everything from "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" to the 15th century carol "Ding Dong Merrily on High."

"I figured that there were so many Christmas albums and a lot of them are sort of cheesy," said Allen. "So I thought that an organ trio might be a nice way to make it a little hipper than your average Christmas record."

Allen says his particular approach has never truly gone out of style with a large number of jazz fans.

"I've been very lucky to keep busy," he said. "The sort of overall style I'm playing is fairly accessible to the public and everywhere we go -- Japan, Europe, the United States -- there's always a fairly large fan base."

That said, the saxophonist wants it known that he's not going out of his way to pursue a career path with deep roots in the swing tradition.

"I'm influenced by many different things," Allen said. "Certainly I'm much more influenced by people like Stan Getz, Ben Webster, Lester Young, Flip (Phillips), and Scott (Hamilton) than I am by people like John Coltrane. But I'm also influenced by John Coltrane as well as people like Sonny Rollins and Michael Brecker.

"I'm not consciously doing anything. I don't limit myself. I feel very comfortable playing with any number of style jazz musicians. I'm not intentionally trying to carry on any lineage. I just play the way I want to play and play the things I want to play."

- Bob Young



Jazziz On Disc
December 2001

Proving that jazz musicians playing Christmas music can fall somewhere left of smooth or traditional, saxophonist Harry Allen crafts a gem in Christmas In Swingtime (Koch Jazz). All the expected classics are here: "O Christmas Tree," "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "White Christmas." Yet Allen and a trio of aces employ a fresh approach. Drummer Jake Hanna provides a metronomic pendulum throughout, guitarist Peter Bernstein exudes a minimalistic cool, and guest John Pizzarelli sings the only non-instrumental, "Blue Christmas." But it's Hammond-organ master Larry Goldings who most inspires Allen and refreshes tracks like "Winter Wonderland" (featured), playing bebop solos and harmonies, and R&B-infused chords and melodies.



December 2001

Christmas In Swingtime by Harry Allen (Koch) --Sometimes, a holiday album can be an opportunity, not just an obligation. Allen is a young (mid thirties) tenor saxophonist who's been lauded by the likes of Michael Brecker and Bucky Pizzarelli (who gave Allen his first pro gig as a sub for Zoot Sims). But he's never become a household name outside of other musician's houses. Can a holiday album be a breakthrough? Maybe. As the title implies, Allen swings here, but softly. His versions of 10 classics ("Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," etc.) are clear as a glass tree ornament and as tart as hot apple cider. www.kochint.com


Christmas in Swingtime -- Saving the absolute best for last, Tenor Saxophonist Harry Allen has recorded as fine a jazz holiday disc as one could hope for. Instead of opting for the traditional jazz quartet of piano, bass, and drums, Allen instead employees the neo-funk stylings of Larry Goldings and Peter Bernstein in a tenor-Hammond B-3-guitar roadhouse combination that is as turkey and dressing as it is collard greens and ham hocks. Allen is relaxed and plays empathetically with Goldings and Bernstein. The result is Christmas on the Chitlin' Circuit. "Oh Christmas Tree" is a swinging romp and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" begins as an eggnog ballad with a light, churchy organ intro from Goldings and ends with a Harry Allen Bill Haley and the Comets. John Pizzarelli is on hand to sing "Blue Christmas" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" is taken at a "My Favorite Things" 3/4 time pace. This recording is not simply pleasant versions of carols in a jazz vein, it is very fine jazz. Everyone hits their stride on the disc. Bravo!



Although it was recorded in New York City, the liner notes for this splendid holiday release by tenor saxophonist Harry Allen are in Japanese, an indication that it was not necessarily aimed at a domestic audience but one that is somewhat farther east. What's more, the copy I have is on the BMG label while the accompanying press release is from Koch Jazz, which, presumably, obtained the distribution rights from BMG (and has provided an English translation of Dan Polletta's notes). Are you following me so far? Good. There'll be a pop quiz later. Allen, who turned thirty-five in October (happy birthday, Harry), is a throwback to an earlier era in which lyricism and a lovely sound reigned supreme, and his influences range from Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Ben Webster to Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn and, among his contemporaries, Scott Hamilton. To these ears, he sounds most like Getz with Zoot's unerring sense of time. What's important, of course, is that Allen swings under any and all conditions including seasonal. When it comes to Jazz, there's little difference between Christmas songs and others; they're all comprised of chord changes, and once one knows the changes he can treat them like any other number, which is what Allen and his talented colleagues do here. After stating the melody they take the song wherever it leads them, which is invariably along a most picturesque and agreeable byway. Larry Goldings, who's also an excellent pianist, stays with the Hammond on this date. He and mellow guitarist Peter Bernstein obviate the need for a bassist while drummer Jake Hanna is a model of taste and proficiency. The quartet is augmented on one number, "Blue Christmas," by vocalist John Pizzarelli who sounds rather like a latter-day version of Chet Baker. Most of these tunes should be immediately familiar to anyone who's not been sequestered in a cave, the possible exception being Johnny Mandel's "Christmas Love Song," which closes the album. There's one bona fide "burner," the traditional carol "Ding! Dong! Merry on High," on which everyone is in an exuberant holiday mood. The rest is slow to medium but no less earnest. If you can envision Stan Getz playing carols and other seasonal fare you'll have a reasonably accurate idea of what to expect from Christmas in Swingtime.

-Jack Bowers


Midwest Record Recap
November 2001

Harry Allen / Christmas in Swingtime: A right on tenor sax Christmas is on tap here. Allen is on point in giving these chestnuts a new set of legs and igniting some new, dormant warmth to bring them back into focus. Letting the sax do the singing, he has the luxury of moving the set card into diverse areas that keep within the holiday but bring in modes and textures that don't always come together. Sweet.


   

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