What would you get if you melded a bit of Art Blakey to the imagination of Lester Bowie? You'd get trumpeter Eddie (E. J.) Allen who collaborated with both bandleaders and leads a high-voltage quintet through a set displaying his diverse approach, precise technique and exceptional composing skills.
Standards by Herbie Hancock, Benny Golson, McCoy Tyner and Frank Gordon and six Allen originals are imaginatively polished off by Allen and his cohorts: Dan Faulk (tenor/soprano saxes), Anthony Wonsey (piano), Richie Goods (bass), and Cindy Blackman (drums). Trombonist Steve Turre guests on four tracks.
Collectively and individually, everyone shines on this rare session where renderings of original tunes surpass reinvented standards. Allen intelligently injects tunes with exhilarating counterpoint, texture, shifting tempos and ample space to develop solos. The quintet impeccably masters ever-changing time shifts-how could they miss with enterprising Blackman in the house? One fine example of how Allen applies his art is the open, emancipated, propulsive "Always," the most exciting original (and longest at 10:58).
As trumpeter, Allen achieves a warm tone and draws from formal training at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music/Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin as well as collaborations with top peers and veterans after settling in New York in the mid-1980s. Allen also toured, recorded and served as musical director with Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy for several years.
On this July 1999 studio date, his second for Enja, Allen proves he's definitely an all-around talent to track, especially if he keeps this extraordinary team together.