Fathers serious about seeing their sons one day becoming famous athletes begin developing their offspring's skills at a very young age. In the case of Harry Allen's father, who was a big-band drummer, he played jazz records each day for Harry before he went off to kindergarten. Starting off with accordion lessons, there was a fortuitous switch to saxophone later. Attending Rutgers University, Allen studied saxophone with Sahib Shihab, Bob Mintzer, and John Purcell. In 1989, he graduated from Rutgers with a degree in jazz tenor saxophone. While at Rutgers, Allen got his first gig with the help of master bass player Major Holley, where he replaced Zoot Sims at a studio recording with John Bunch, George Masso, Bucky Pizzarelli, and Ruby Braff. During the session, Dizzy Gillespie dropped by. Quite heady company for a young tenor player doing his first recording. Wholley also led Allen to Oliver Jackson, who Allen subsequently accompanied on several tours to Europe. A 1986 session with Kenny Barron was Allen's first recording date. After that, Allen had 19 recordings to his name for such labels as Progressive, Audiophile, and Nagel-Heyer. Later, his recordings were with major label RCA-Victor. Three of his discs have been awarded a Gold Disc by Swing Journal Magazine and his CD Tenors Anyone won both the Gold Disc and New Star awards. He has recorded as a sideman with Bucky Pizzarelli (with whom he performs quite frequently), Warren Vache, and Jeff Hamilton. Allen's musical inspiration and interpretive approach come from the giants and innovators of mainstream saxophone, including Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Stan Getz, Illinois Jacquet, and Lester Young. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Allen has pretty much eschewed the modern, avant-garde, and impressionist schools of jazz of John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, and Ornette Coleman. Allen continues to record extensively and makes frequent appearances at jazz festivals and concerts. ~ Dave Nathan
- Washington D.C.
- Oct 12, 1966