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May 1999

Henry "Red" Allen
The Henry Allen Collection, Vol. 6
Collector's Classics

Roy Eldridge generally gets credit for being the link between traditional jazz and bop, but while the admittedly great Eldridge was the major influence on Dizzy Gillespie, he was not the first trumpeter to use a "saxophone style," i.e., to employ more complex lines and more legato phrasing than the typical New Orleans or Chicago style trumpeter. Among those who recorded using this style before Eldridge were Reuben Reeves, Jabbo Smith and Henry "Red" Allen. The way Allen ran chord changes and double-timed on his 1935 recording of "Body and Soul" was an excellent example of saxophone-style trumpet and forecast Coleman Hawkins' more famous 1939 version of it. Allens' searing work was notable for its harmonic daring, which even Eldridge couldn't handle; he accused Allen of playing "wrong notes." Not only was Allen ahead of his time, he continued to evolve into the 1940s, as his work here demonstrates.

There are four sessions included, one apiece from 1941 and '44 and two from '46. Trombonist J.C. Higgenbotham appears on all and the other front-line player is clarinetist Ed Hall (1941) or alto sax player Don Stovall (1944,'46). The '41 tracks are typically hot Allen fare, but in '44 more modern influences appear. "Red Jump" is a boppish theme which uses the "Salt Peanuts" triplet during the bridge. It's quite an interesting date. Some of the tracks on it were not issued when cut and have subsequently been ignored. "The Theme," a six-minute selection, has nicely constructed solos by Allen and Higgenbotham, who take advantage of its length to play in a thoughtful, unhurried way. "Just a Feeling" features Stovall's pretty alto all the way. The eight 1946 cuts contain some novelty material and pretty good Allen vocals. The highlights are solos by Allen and Stovall, who exhibit bop influences while maintaining their originality. Allen articulates crisply, demonstrates good chops and swings with smoothness and power. Stovall integrates ideas from Charlie Parker into his solos.

Originally published in May 1999
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