Reviews that mention Marshall Allen

February 11, 2016

Paul Bley

A Modern Jazz Piano Master
By Ken Waxman

Paul Bley who died at 83 in early January was probably never bothered that he was usually described as Canada’s second best-known jazz pianist; Oscar Peterson was the first. But Bley, who shared a Montreal birth with Peterson, and who similarly was honored with induction into the Order of Canada in 2008 – albeit 30 plus years after Peterson – was for all intents and purposes a much more radical pianist than O.P. Peterson, seven years Bley’s senior, was a flamboyant stylist who adapted Art Tatum’s all-encompassing swing era techniques to the structure of modern jazz during an almost incalculable number of performances from the late 1940s until his death in 2007. However Bley, represented on more than 100 discs during his career, cycled through a variety of keyboard strategies from the outgoing to the cerebral, eventually matching the atonality of off-centre techniques with straightforward, melodically measured motion. He was also one of the first serious improvisers to deal with the sonic possibilities that could be extracted from the then brand-new portable Moog synthesizer. Later, such better-known pianists as Keith Jarrett, The Bad Plus’ Ethan Iverson and Satoko Fujii developed their playing following the examples of Bley’s breakthroughs. MORE

September 11, 2014

Sun Ra Arkestra

Live in Ulm 1992
Golden Years of Jazz GY 30/31

Kidd Jordan/Alvin Fielder/Peter Kowald

Trio and Duo in New Orleans

NoBusiness Records NBCD 64/65

Pete Robbins

Pyramid

Hate Laugh Music 003 pet

Jean Derome et Lé Quan Ninh

Fléchettes

Tour de Bras TDB 9004cd

Fred Van Hove/Damon Smith/Peter Jacquemyn

Burns Longer

Balance Point Acoustics BPA2

Something In The Air: Guelph Jazz Festival Reaches A New Maturity MORE

December 15, 2012

Pharoah Sanders

In the Beginning 1963-64
ESP-Disk ESP-4069

Pierre Favre

Drums and Dreams

Intakt CD 197

Connie Crothers - David Arner

Spontaneous Suite for Two Pianos

Rogueart R0G-037

Various Artists

Echtzeitmusik Berlin

Mikroton CD 14/15/16

Something In The Air: Multiple Disc Sets for the Adventurous

By Ken Waxman

Defying doomsayers who predicted the death of the LP, the CD’s disappearance appears oversold. True music collectors prefer the physical presence and superior fidelity of a well-designd CD package and important material continues to released. Partisans of advanced music, for instance, can choose any one of these sets. The only saxophonist to be part of saxophonist John Coltrane’s working group, tenorist Pharoah Sanders is celebrated for his own highly rhythmic Energy Music. In the Beginning 1963-64 ESP-Disk ESP-4069, a four CD-package highlight his steady growth. Besides Sanders’ first album as leader, very much in the freebop tradition, as part of quintet of now obscure players, the other previously released sounds capture Sanders’ recordings in the Sun Ra Arkestra. More valuable is a CD of unissued tracks where Sanders asserts himself in quartets led by cornetist Don Cherry or Canadian pianist Paul Bley. The set is completed by short interviews with all of the leaders. Oddly enough, although they precede his solo debut, Sanders’ playing is most impressive with Bley and Cherry. With more of a regularized beat via bassist David Izenson and drummer J.C. Moses, Cherry’s tracks advance melody juxtaposition and parallel improvisations with Sanders’ harsh obbligato contrasted with the cornetist’s feisty flourishes; plus the darting lines and quick jabs of pianist Joe Scianni provides an unheralded pleasure. Bley’s economical comping and discursive patterning lead the saxophonist into solos filled with harsh tongue-twisting lines and jagged interval leaps. With Izenson’s screeching assent and drummer Paul Motion’s press rolls the quartet plays super fast without losing the melodic thread. Sun Ra is a different matter. Recorded in concert, the sets include helpings of space chants such as “Rocket #9” and “Next Stop Mars”; a feature for Black Harold’s talking log drums; showcases for blaring trombones, growling trumpets; plus the leader’s propulsive half-down-home and half-outer-space keyboard. Sharing honking and double-tonguing interludes with Arkestra saxists Pat Patrick and Marshall Allen, Sanders exhibits his characteristic stridency. Enjoyable for Sun Ra’s vision which is spectacular and jocular, these tracks suggest why the taciturn Sanders soon went on his own. MORE

November 30, 2011

Marshall Allen/KonstruKt

Vibrations of the Day
KonstruKt Re048

Odean Pope

Universal Sounds

Porter Records PRCD 4053

At 87 years of age, alto saxophonist, flutist and Electronic Wind Instrument (EWI) player Marshall Allen appears to be busier than ever. One would think that the wiry reedist who ascended to the leadership of the Sun Ra Arkestra shortly after Ra’s planet leaving in 1993 would have his hands full shepherding that rambunctious aggregation. Yet he’s obviously free enough – in both senses of the word – to lend his talents to such notable projects as these CDs. MORE

November 30, 2011

Odean Pope

Universal Sounds
Porter Records PRCD 4053

Marshall Allen/KonstruKt

Vibrations of the Day

KonstruKt Re048

At 87 years of age, alto saxophonist, flutist and Electronic Wind Instrument (EWI) player Marshall Allen appears to be busier than ever. One would think that the wiry reedist who ascended to the leadership of the Sun Ra Arkestra shortly after Ra’s planet leaving in 1993 would have his hands full shepherding that rambunctious aggregation. Yet he’s obviously free enough – in both senses of the word – to lend his talents to such notable projects as these CDs. MORE

February 12, 2011

Lou Grassi Po Band

Live at the Knitting Factory Vol. 1 (with Marshall Allen)
Porter Records PRCD 4051

Nu Band

Live in Paris

NoBusiness Records NBCD 16

By Ken Waxman

Recorded almost exactly seven years apart, these high-class discs illuminate drummer Lou Grassi’s hard-hitting yet rhythmically sophisticated style in two advanced group contexts. At home with styles ranging from ragtime to free form, Grassi advances any project in tandem with other players, never drawing undue attention to himself.

A welcome document involving the drummer’s long-constituted – since 1995 – Po Band, Live at the Knitting Factory features flutist/saxophonist Marshall Allen, linchpin of the Sun Ra Arkestra, guesting with the 2000 version of the group. Besides Grassi, trumpeter Paul Smoker, trombonist Steve Swell and clarinettist Perry Robinson are featured along with the late bassist Wilber Morris. That same year, Grassi hooked up with three other mature players to form the Nu Band. Live in Paris, recorded in 2007, demonstrates the close cooperation which has allowed it to flourish. Although each Nu Band member is a leader in his own right – as are Po Band’s participants – the CD’s extended tracks demonstrate the group’s collegial if not musical harmony. Mercurial reedist Mark Whitecage and fiery brass man Roy Campbell have an ideal setting for their contrapuntal connections, while the drummer and solid bassist Joe Fonda – who plays in as many bands as Grassi – not only keep the music on an even keel, but solos impressively. MORE

December 9, 2010

Sun Ra

The Heliocentric Worlds
ESP-Disk 4062

Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet +1

3 Nights in Oslo

Smalltown Superjazz STSJ197CD

Anthony Braxton/Gerry Hemingway

Old Dogs (2007)

Mode Avant 9/12

Rivière Composers’ Pool

Summer Works 2009

Emanem 5301

Something in the Air

By Ken Waxman

Boxed sets of recorded music have long been a holiday gift. But sophisticated music fans won’t settle for slapped together “best of” collections. Boxes such as these, collecting multiple CDs for specific reasons, should impress any aware listener. MORE

October 17, 2010

Marshall Allen/Matthew Shipp/Joe Morris

Night Logic
Rogueart Rog-0028

More like a cozy song-swap around the campfire by a trio of equals than an intergenerational showdown or torch passing, Night Logic still offers 10 real-time improvisations between of representative of today’s advanced music and a musician who has trawled the sonic spaceways for many decades.

Pianist Matthew Shipp, 49, epitomizes the contemporary multi-directional explorer, at home playing in advanced Free Music situations with bassist Mike Bisio and saxophonist David S. Ware, to cite two, as he is involved in synthesizers and programming with Chris Flam or the Anti-pop Consortium. Joining him here is multi-instrumentalist Marshall Allen, 86, who has been part of Sun Ra’s Arkestra since 1956 and led the large improvisational ensemble since Ra’s death 16 years ago. Backing both with stops and strokes that are usually more felt than heard is bassist Joe Morris, 54, equally renown for his guitar playing. MORE

July 24, 2009

Sun Ra

Featuring Pharoah Sanders & Black Harold
ESP 4054

Ronnie Boykins

The Will Come, Is Now

ESP 1099

Reissued and newly discovered sounds by composer/bandleader Sun Ra [1914-1993] are helping to fill gaps in his massive oeuvre and present a more complete picture of his activities. These two exceptional discs for instance, recorded a decade apart by a distinct Ra Arkestra and a valued member of his organization reveal additional – and unexpected – facets of Ra’s musical life.

Paradoxically, each suggests that despite his extraterrestrial trappings, the loquacious Ra may have actually been only as avant-garde as Duke Ellington, who similarly was never at a loss for words. Featuring Pharoah Sanders & Black Harold for example, combines previously un-issued and spottily distributed 1964 tracks that showcase musicians who otherwise didn’t play with the Arkestra. In this way the sessions are not unlike radio air checks that capture the work of unrecorded Ellington bands of the 1940s. Similar to what those slabs of the Ducal canon also reveal, the tracks prove that no matter how powerful the presence of tenor saxophonist Sanders – subbing for John Gilmore who had joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers – and log drummer/flutist Black Harold (Murray) – who would reappear for a time in the 1990s in Chicago’s Ethnic Heritage Ensemble – is, their contributions don’t really modify Ra’s singular and mercurial vision. MORE

July 24, 2009

Ronnie Boykins

The Will Come, Is Now
ESP 1099

Sun Ra

Featuring Pharoah Sanders & Black Harold

ESP 4054

Reissued and newly discovered sounds by composer/bandleader Sun Ra [1914-1993] are helping to fill gaps in his massive oeuvre and present a more complete picture of his activities. These two exceptional discs for instance, recorded a decade apart by a distinct Ra Arkestra and a valued member of his organization reveal additional – and unexpected – facets of Ra’s musical life.

Paradoxically, each suggests that despite his extraterrestrial trappings, the loquacious Ra may have actually been only as avant-garde as Duke Ellington, who similarly was never at a loss for words. Featuring Pharoah Sanders & Black Harold for example, combines previously un-issued and spottily distributed 1964 tracks that showcase musicians who otherwise didn’t play with the Arkestra. In this way the sessions are not unlike radio air checks that capture the work of unrecorded Ellington bands of the 1940s. Similar to what those slabs of the Ducal canon also reveal, the tracks prove that no matter how powerful the presence of tenor saxophonist Sanders – subbing for John Gilmore who had joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers – and log drummer/flutist Black Harold (Murray) – who would reappear for a time in the 1990s in Chicago’s Ethnic Heritage Ensemble – is, their contributions don’t really modify Ra’s singular and mercurial vision. MORE

June 18, 2009

Sun Ra

Secrets of the Sun
Atavistic ALP 266 CD

Sun Ra

Live in Cleveland 1975

Golden Years of New Jazz GY 29

Sun Ra’s near-cultish status among some fans, means that, unlike the fanatical disciples such as Dean Benedetti, who preserved non-commercially released work of Charlie Parker and other major jazz figures, Ra material-hoarders number in the hundreds. Consequently previously unknown – or un-circulated – material turns up with increased regularity. Both of these sessions fit into that category. MORE

June 18, 2009

Sun Ra

Live in Cleveland 1975
Golden Years of New Jazz GY 29

Sun Ra

Secrets of the Sun

Atavistic ALP 266 CD

Sun Ra’s near-cultish status among some fans, means that, unlike the fanatical disciples such as Dean Benedetti, who preserved non-commercially released work of Charlie Parker and other major jazz figures, Ra material-hoarders number in the hundreds. Consequently previously unknown – or un-circulated – material turns up with increased regularity. Both of these sessions fit into that category. MORE

October 8, 2008

Sun Ra

On Jupiter
Art Yard CD 004

Sun Ra

Sleeping Beauty

Art Yard CD 003

Unlike many committed sonic experimenters, keyboardist/composer/band leader Sun Ra (1914-1993) never denigrated any type of music – he used them for his own ends.

Thus these notable 1979 sessions, recorded when his Intergalactic Myth Science Solar Arkestra numbered 20 plus musicians, do more than promulgate Ra’s usual mixture of Black Pride and Science Fiction in an improvised jazz context. The compositions add elements of impressionistic moodiness, gospel harmonies, doo-wop vocals, solo piano blues and big band riffs. Furthermore, post-production processing plus the distortions available from electrified guitar, bass, piano and organ also bring out echoes of rock, R&B and even disco. MORE

May 3, 2008

Sun Ra & His Outer Space Arkestra

Some Blues But Not The Kind Thats Blue
Atavistic UMS ALP 265 CD

Sun Ra

The Complete Disco 3000 Concert

Art Yard CD 001

Nearly 15 years after his death – oops, leave-taking for another planet – reissued, unknown and newly discovered sessions by keyboardist/composer/band leader Sun Ra (1914-1993) continue to appear. With the facilities of his own Saturn label plus whichever label(s) he was signed to at the time available to him, Ra evidently recorded just about every scrap of sound involving him and his band.

Furthermore, although Ra was first and foremost a large ensemble specialist – he directed the last constantly working big band – if the occasion demanded, he fronted small groups as well – as these fascinating documents attest. As tradition-oriented as he was futuristic, Ra’s set list was as colossal as it was unpredictable. Thus these discs recorded in 1973, 1977 and 1978, contain not only new material such as both CDs’ title tracks, but a mixture of Ra “hits” such as “We Travel the Spaceways” and “Sun of the Cosmos” and standards such as “My Favorite Thing” and “Nature Boy”. MORE

May 3, 2008

Sun Ra

The Complete Disco 3000 Concert
Art Yard CD 001

Sun Ra & His Outer Space Arkestra

Some Blues But Not The Kind Thats Blue

Atavistic UMS ALP 265 CD

Nearly 15 years after his death – oops, leave-taking for another planet – reissued, unknown and newly discovered sessions by keyboardist/composer/band leader Sun Ra (1914-1993) continue to appear. With the facilities of his own Saturn label plus whichever label(s) he was signed to at the time available to him, Ra evidently recorded just about every scrap of sound involving him and his band. MORE

November 15, 2005

Guelph Jazz Festival:

Improv On The Move
for CODA

Taking the concept of free-flowing improvisation a step further, one morning at this year’s Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF), 15 musicians performed simultaneously in four different whitewashed rooms of the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre.

The workshop developed this way, according to Ajay Heble, GJF artistic director, because so many musicians wanted to participate. Some – American alto saxophonist Marshall Allan, British pianist Veryan Weston, Québécois guitarist René Lussier and American banjoist Eugene Chadbourne – rooted on a spot and collaborated with whoever came along. Others moved from place to place and up and down the staircase as they played. MORE

March 8, 2004

SUN RA

Spaceship Lullaby: The Vocal Groups: Chicago 1954-60
Atavistic Unheard Music Series UMS243CD

Undoubtedly one of the most -- if not the most -- bizarre items in the massive Sun Ra discography, this CD showcases the pianist and infrequently members of his Arkestra backing up three pro-am Chicago vocal groups.

While there’s some grotesque fascination in listening to some of the 37 [!] songs the three sets of singers -- the Nu Sounds, the Lintels and the Cosmic Rays -- perform, you have to realize that many of the 74 plus minutes of music are merely of rehearsal tape quality. Plus true appreciation of the results must come with a certain tolerance for schmaltz. Before he took his band and cosmic visions to New York and later Philadelphia, Sun Ra was very much part of Black show biz in the Windy City. Thus much of the singing is given over to a cross section of pre-rock’n’roll standards and originals, some as cringe-inducing as “A Perfume Counter (in Paris)” and “The Wooden Soldier & The China Doll”, both sung by the Lintels. MORE

December 30, 2002

SUN RA

Music From Tomorrow's World
Atavistic Unheard Music UMS/ALP 237CD

Analogous to hearing Count Basie's band at Kansas City's Reno Club in 1935 or Charlie Parker's legendary stand at New York's Famous Door in 1953 with Thelonious Monk on piano, these newly unearthed tapes offer 17 Chicago performances from 1960 by Sun Ra's then tiny Arkestra.

Their fascination lies more in what the Arkestra isn't then what it is. Not yet the familiar, well-organized band of a dozen musicians plus, instead these tracks feature both a sextet and an octet, working through -- sometimes for the first time -- newly recorded or soon to be taped Ra compositions. Some of the tunes would become Arkestra classics; some would never be recorded or heard again. Additionally, since the first seven selections were taped at Ra's regular gig at the Wonder Inn at Cottage Grove and 75th on Chicago's South Side, you get to hear how the band functioned in a non-listening room circumstance. Mixing familiar show tunes, light classics, jazz syncopation and Ra inventions, the band showed that schtick and showmanship were upfront more than 40 years ago. MORE