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Harry Allen: Hits by Brits

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Tenor saxophonist Harry Allen can evoke Lester Young disciples like Stan Getz or Zoot Sims one minute and the heavier swing-era tenorists the next. On his latest release, Allen’s sound and articulation lean toward the aggressive end of the scale, although on ballads like “You’re Blasé” and “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” he often brings to mind a reflective Sims or Ben Webster.

All the tunes are by Englishmen, except “Just in Time,” whose composer, the American Jule Styne, was born in London. Well-known bandleader Ray Noble wrote “The Very Thought of You,” “I Hadn’t Anyone Till You” and the classic jazz vehicle “Cherokee.” Also included are “Roses of Picardy,” “These Foolish Things,” “Limehouse Blues” and “Got a Date with an Angel.” The informal arrangements consist largely of Allen, guitarist Joe Cohn and trombonist John Allred (on four tracks) stating the melody, taking choruses, trading phrases and taking the chart out.

Allen is in great form, whether swinging ebulliently or caressing a melody, and the virtuosic Allred is consistently impressive. Cohn seemingly inherited dad Al’s melodic sense, as he spins nimble, tuneful lines at any tempo. The fine rhythm section also includes bassist Joel Forbes and drummer Chuck Riggs.