Allen Eager Dies

Allen Eager, a talented saxophonist of the bebop era who left music early in his career, died April 13 in Daytona Beach, Fla. of liver cancer. He was 76.

Born in New York City in 1927, Allen took up clarinet at 13, studying with Dave Weber of the New York Philharmonic. Allen’s parents eventually bought him a tenor saxophone and he took lessons with Ben Webster. After touring with guitarist Bobby Sherwood’s big band at 16, he found work in the bands of Woody Herman and Tommy Dorsey.

Like Zoot Sims and Stan Getz, Allen was a white musician often hired by black band leaders in the 1950s. He recorded with Coleman Hawkins in 1946 and can be heard on RCA’s Hawkins compilation Body and Soul. Allen also played with Fats Navarro and Charlie Parker around this time. Allen spent the better part of 1948 in Tadd Dameron’s band, which played regularly at New York’s Royal Roost.

Allen continued with music in the early 1950s as a member of Buddy Rich’s band and he played frequently with Howard McGhee and Oscar Pettiford, but by 1957 he had more or less left music. Parker’s death in 1955 left Allen cold on the jazz scene. “After Charlie Parker died, jazz just went down the tubes as far as being a vital force,” he explained to The Orlando Sentinel in a 1993 interview.

Allen lived in Paris during the late ’50s and ’60s, and traded saxophone for skis and racecars. In 1961 he placed in a 12-hour endurance automobile race in Sebring, Fla. He later returned to Florida and raised a family there. Occasional returns to music saw him cut a record for Uptown in 1982 and tour with Dizzy Gillespie in 1983.

Allen is survived by a former wife, two daughters, a

son and two granddaughters.