Thursday, April 1, 2010

Harry Allen: New York State of Mind

Challenge Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 4.1.10
Buy CD: New York State of Mind

The music world has tiers of excellence: musicians who, on the basis of their association with “name” artists or bands, receive continuous exposure to the public and achieve name-brand status themselves; and those who work more behind the scenes and, as a result, remain relatively unknown.

Many of the latter tend to work near where they live: some survive comfortably doing studio work; others play in local orchestras or groups; some teach; and many others have different day jobs and play on the side.

Tenor sax artist Harry Allen is one of the “relatively unknown.”

Allen was born in Washington, D.C., in 1966; he went to Rutger's University, in New Jersey, and currently lives and works in New York City. It's difficult to name an artist he hasn't worked with, and everybody is fully aware of his talent. Allen has more than 20 recordings to his name, and three of his CDs have won Japan's Gold Disc Awards.

The man can swing with the best.

This album contains 11 portraits of New York City, presented via familiar compositions that run from the roaring '20s through today; the track list begins with Irving Berlin's “Puttin' On The Ritz” and William Jerome's “Chinatown, My Chinatown,” and concludes with Billy Joel's “New York State of Mind,” along the way stopping at every other Big Apple-themed melody you can recall.

The resulting CD is a gem. Allen's sax is superb; his tone is lush perfection, and he's supported by an outstanding quartet of piano, bass, drums and trombone. This is traditional, straight-ahead jazz at its best: no bop, no funk, no hip-hop ... just wonderful swinging music.

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