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Album Review

Despite his still young age, tenor saxophonist Harry Allen has released nearly 40 CDs. Even more impressive is that he plays mostly standards, and while that well is deep, there's no easy chore in making American popular songs fresh and vibrant within the mainstream. Allen accomplishes this by changing up his bands, working hard on his personalized post-Stan Getz voicings, and occasionally inviting veteran hero/musicians to his recording sessions. In this case, fellow tenor man Scott Hamilton joins the band Allen co-leads with the excellent primarily rhythm guitarist Joe Cohn, and there's a story behind the recording date. Hamilton, living in London, England, flew to the U.S. shortly after the terrorist threat there in February of 2007 and was forced to check his saxophone instead of carrying it with him on the flight, and it was badly damaged in transit. But somehow Hamilton was able to piece the hurt horn together, and he sounds as good on it as he ever has. Trombonist John Allred is another modern miracle on this effort, as his playing in accord with, opposite to, and in conversational mode with Allen is sheer genius. Why is Allred not hailed as one of the top five jazz trombonists going today? Some good swingin' music is created as Allen and Allred trade alternating choruses for the obscure "I'll Get By" and go back and forth in chat-chat mode during "I Only Have Eyes for You," while each adopts solo lines on the medley melodies of "It Might as Well Be Spring" (Allred) and "Spring Is Here" (Allen). Of the three selections with the twin tenors plus 'bone, "You're Driving Me Crazy" is as interactive as any Dixieland tune, the deep saxes take eight-bar turns for "My Old Flame," and all three horns hit a singsong groove as the cool bass of Joel Forbes and Cohn's guitar prep "(I Would Do) Anything for You." Of the originals penned by Allen, "Don't Want to Have To" evokes a Gerry Mulligan or Dave Brubeck/Paul Desmond classical jazz stance moving forward, wryly followed by the just fine swing of "But I Will." The title track is a basic romping, bopping 12-bar blues, while the end game piece, "So There," has Allen and his band syncopatin' as hard as he ever has. This is yet another complete, effervescent, solid session for Allen. It's also a treat to read the liner notes by Herb Wong. Any jazz fan can receive special insight reading what Dr. Wong has to say. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

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