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Harry Allen and Randy Sandke: The Music of Trumpet Kings

The paragon of jazz repertory-trained trumpeters, Randy Sandke not only commands a deep familiarity with the styles of his great predecessors, but he also has the musicianship to delineate their dimensions without ever resorting to imitation. He has demonstrated this chameleon-like adaptability many times before, and here he does so again, this time, however, in the company of tenorman Harry Allen, whose name should have followed rather than preceded Sandke’s in the billing, and the RIAS Big Band Berlin, a well-rehearsed and swinging 15-piece German orchestra under the direction of trombonist Jiggs Whigham.

Regardless of the diversity of the material, Sandke achieves in his arrangements a stylistic cohesiveness and democratized leveling that lends unity to the whole, thus making all of the charts equally accessible, especially to newer listeners. His opening tribute to Armstrong, “I Love Louis,” is based on “Shine,” and is followed by a recently unearthed, previously unrecorded Bix Beiderbecke piano composition, “Cloudy,” which is treated with appropriate sensitivity by the warm-toned tenorman. Next, we hear in sequence sympathetic depictions of Cootie Williams (“Echoes Of Harlem”), Roy Eldridge (“Little Jazz Boogie”), Bunny Berigan (“I Can’t Get Started”), Harry James (“Melancholy Rhapsody”), Buck Clayton (“Randy’s Rolls Royce”), Dizzy Gillespie (“Shaw ‘Nuff”), Miles Davis (“All Blues”), Chet Baker (“Turnstile”), Clifford Brown (“Relaxin’ At Clifford’s”), Woody Shaw (“Moontrane”) and Freddie Hubbard (“Bird Like”). Note that Allen, whose tenor sound touches equally upon such founts as Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Wardell Gray and Paul Gonsalves, consistently provides a welcomed timbral contrast to the brilliance of the Sandke horn, but this does not justify the elevation of a featured front-liner to the status of a co-leader.

Originally Published