Harry Allen - Tenor sax
John Bunch - Piano
Dennis Irwin - Bass
Duffy Jackson - Drums
The Harry Allen Quartet's Blue Skies is a
recent recording of popular ballads. In addition to some wonderful
standards, Allen includes originals Hummin' Along, Why
Must I Go and Carolyn's Kitchen. While the mood of
Allen's Quartet is relaxed and the music is easy-listening, this
reviewer was left feeling distinctly lukewarm.
Harry Allen plays in the musical style of Stan Getz,
imitating the master's warm and full tenor sound, however, he
fails to capture the listener's attention using his own musical
voice. As a musician, I listen to recordings of up-and-coming
artists to hear new sounds and ideas. Allen is articulate with
his musical ideas, yet, I was distracted easily. I realized he
was merely imitating the voice of musicians rather than stating
his musical ideas as an individual influenced by great artists.
It is very important for musicians to hear and digest the sounds
of the masters, but, only in an effort to develop an individual
style and sound, not to give people more of what they have already
Hummin' Along is one
of the original compositions and a musical highlight.
This up-tempo blues communicates real vibrant energy and gives
the listener a welcome break from the slow, laid-back sound.
This is the first time the Quartet shows its musical potential.
Bass player Dennis Irwin and drummer Duffy Jackson begin a steadfast,
driving pulse that remains throughout the whole chart. Pianist
John Bunch offers an energetic twenty-four bar introduction that
implies the sequential style of the melody and really prepares
the listener for Allen's entry.
We are soon introduced to the next two Allen compositions,
Why Must You Go and Carolyn's Kitchen. In all the
original numbers, Allen begins the song by stating the melody
and continues by playing the same melody in a slightly different
way. This, demonstrating further use of the previously mentioned
technique, sequential melody. Listening to Carolyn's Kitchen
serves as a strong introduction to the standard, Blue Skies.
Unfortunately, Why Must You Go is a ballad that pales
against a selection of great songs such as I Didn't Know What
Time It Was, What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life,
and How Insensitive.
The 20-bit recording was captured in the Church of
the Holy Trinity, New York City. All of the tracks on this CD
are live and unedited, except for track five which contains but
one splice. In an effort to recreate live sound, the JMR team
recorded the Harry Allen Quartet with two Cambridge C35 microphones
and a Studer A80 analog tape recorder (30 i.p.s.). Sadly, I found
the soundstage distant - it excluded me from being an intimate
part of the performance. The sound is adequate if standing outside
the church listening to the Quartet, unable to afford the price
of admission! It appears as if the Quartet was lined up one behind
the other, with John Bunch and Duffy Jackson at the extreme end
of the hall. The sound on this release is not representative of
the other JMRs I have heard.
If you like easy-listening music, the recording will
not disappoint you. In his notes, John Marks suggests the listener
use a sound pressure level meter to adjust the playback volume
in order to "obtain a more realistic recreation of the original
musical experience". My initial reaction to his direction
was slightly different! Thus, I suggest that admirers of original
jazz voices should look elsewhere.
Copyright©Steven Dubinsky, 1998