Reviews that mention Ben Allison

February 20, 2006

RICH HALLEY TRIO

Mountains and Plains
Louie Records 035

MICHAEL BLAKE TRIO
Right Before Your Very Ears
Clean Feed CF 044CD

Two saxophonists from the Pacific Northwest – one of whom relocated to New York City years ago – disprove the old saw about “you can take a boy out of the country, but …”

Portland, Oregon-based soprano and tenor saxophonist Rich Halley, who is also a field biologist, brings a West Coast spaciousness to the nine originals that make up the appropriately titled MOUNTAINS AND PLAINS CD. Saxophonist Michael Blake, who grew up in Vancouver, B.C., yet relocated to Manhattan in 1987, offers up a program replete with Big Apple speed and toughness. MORE

October 11, 2004

FRANK KIMBROUGH

Lullabluebye
Palmetto Records PM 2100

BEN ALLISON & MEDICINE WHEEL
Buzz
Palmetto Records PM 2101

Affiliated neither with the backwards-gazing Young Lions nor with the try- anything experimenters, New York’s Jazz Composers Collective (JCC) gathers together a rotating cast of musicians and bands to perform and write distinctive contemporary pieces to advance jazz without imitating or rupturing its historic fabric.

Bassist Ben Allison and pianist Frank Kimbrough -- who co-founded the JCC in 1992 and remain two of its composers-in-residence -- refine that concept on these CDs. Problem is, sometimes when you stay in the middle of the road -- even a musical one -- you’re apt to be run over from different directions. MORE

May 5, 2003

FRED HESS

Extended Family
Tapestry 76004-2

TOM CHRISTENSEN
Paths
Playscape PSR #JJ111601

Knowing you limitations and working within them can sometimes be a preferable method of creativity than letting your reach exceed your grasp. At least that’s what becomes clear listening to these two quartet discs, led by fine, but under-celebrated tenor saxophonists.

Denver-based Fred Hess, coordinator of jazz studies at Metropolitan Sate College, is the epitome of the journeyman reedman. Initially influenced by Lester Young, he modesty lists his “current saxophone heroes” as Joe Lovano, Rick Margitza, Bob Berg, Michael Brecker and the much younger Chris Potter. His background, which includes the formation of the Boulder Creative Music Ensemble with trumpeter Ron Miles, as well as work with everyone from ex-Cream drummer Ginger Baker, mainstream bassist Ray Brown and avant trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, is easily the equivalent of those reedists. Plus his talents on tenor saxophone are equal if not superior to some of his “heroes”. MORE

May 3, 2002

MICHAEL BLAKE

Elevated
Knitting Factory KFW-304

Now this is exactly what a modern mainstream session should sound like.

As the enfants terribles of the so-called downtown New York scene reach their late thirties and early forties, they’ve finally gained the polish to add a version of historical jazz to the POMO pastiche of rock, blues, electronica and noise that has been their raison d’être. Case in point, as he shows on this relaxed session, is Vancouver, B.C.-born, Brooklyn-based saxophonist Michael Blake, 37.

Sideman with raucous fake-jazz bands like the Lounge Lizards and Sex Mob, and a member of jazz/folk band Slow Poke with slide guitarist David Tronzo, on ELEVATED, Blake has assembled the sort of horn-and-rhythm date that would have made earlier saxists like Zoot Sims or Gene Ammons proud. MORE

November 12, 2001

THE HERBIE NICHOLS PROJECT

Strange City
Palmetto PM 2077

Appreciation for the work of iconoclastic composer/pianist Herbie Nichols has grown in the years since his 1963 death from leukemia at 44. Thought of during his lifetime as a fringe performer whose three trio LPs were less appealing than even Thelonious Monk's spiky work, the excellence of his compositions was only proclaimed by his friend, trombonist Roswell Rudd.

In the years since, others have come to agree with the assessment, most notably pianist Frank Kimbrough and bassist Ben Allison, who put together this septet to perform Nichols work. This, its third CD, concentrates in the main on the pianist's unrecorded tunes, arranged for the sort of four-horns-and-rhythm-section that Nichols would have loved to use. Nichols' recorded legacy is all in the standard piano trio format. MORE