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The Byron Allen Trio: The Byron Allen Trio

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When his debut album was released in 1965, ESP called Byron Allen “the spiritual descendant of Charlie Parker,” but at first blush the alto saxophonist sounds more like the man who introduced him to the label, Ornette Coleman. Allen plays with a rough tone that doesn’t always keep up with his musical ideas (he sometimes flubs upper-register notes). On closer examination, however, his solos do include some Bird-like flourishes, something unique among free-jazz players at that time, save perhaps Jimmy Lyons.

The interaction between Allen, Ted Robinson (drums) and Maceo Gilchrist (bass) is loose, to be sure, but they play with energy that wasn’t always heard on ESP albums despite the label’s reputation. Robinson drives the 4/4 pulse of “Time Is Past” with solid snare rolls and crashes. “Three Steps in the Right Direction” is in large part a feature for Gilchrist, who walks rapidly without repeating himself or slowing down. “Decision for the Cole-Man” is a tip of the hat to Ornette, but the group clearly has its own ideas-especially Gilchrist, who alternates quickly between bowing and plucking. “Today’s Blues Tomorrow” rambles, but it also shows the group shaping and reshaping the foundation of the music as they go, finding a groove and just as easily discarding it for something else.

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