There is no greater paragon of tenor saxophonist taste than Harry Allen. While the fickle winds of prevailing styles continue to blow this or that way, Allen stands tall like the mighty oak, unswayed by fad fashions and firmly rooted to the music of the Great American Songbook.
On this appealing date, Allen visits the music of George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Duke Ellington. It's not a novel concept, and Allen has gone here countless times, both with single song nods to these men and, on at least two occasions, album-length tributes—Cole Porter Songs (BMG, 2001) and Plays Ellington Songs (RCA Victor/RCA, 2000). But does that really matter? Allen continues to find inspiration in the work of these masters—men whose respective compositional wells never run dry—and his interpretations of their music are things of beauty. You could even go so far as to call them gifts to the ears.
For George, Cole, and Duke finds Allen working with a classy crew of like-minded traditionalists. Pianist Ehud Asherie delivers twinkling and sparkling solos, light and comforting comping, and beautiful beds of sound; Nicki Parrott provides balmy vocals ("In A Mellow Tone," "How Long Has This Been Going On?," and "Mood Indigo"), pleasing solos, and sturdy walking bass lines that act as the heartbeat of this music; and Chuck Redd proves to be a master of feel and economy whether providing a cheery swing pulse from behind the kit or gliding over his band mates with his vibes ("Who Cares?). The majority of the album is a quartet affair, pairing those three with Allen's attractive tenor, but percussionist "Little Johnny" Rivero drops in for the occasional guest shot, adding Latin seasonings to lively numbers ("Love For Sale") and slow roaming episodes of Ellingtonia ("Mood Indigo").
Harry Allen isn't likely to win any originality contests with this one, but that doesn't seem to bother him, nor should it. He's got his sublime saxophone, a group of top-notch musicians, and the music of the masters to work with. In this case, and throughout his career, that's proven to be a formula for success.
Always True To You In My Own Fashion
In A Mellow Tone
How Long Has This Been Going On?
I Love You Samantha
Shall We Dance?
Love For Sale
They All Laughed
Who Cares? (So Long As You Care For Me)
Harry Allen: tenor saxophone
Ehud Asherie: piano
Nicki Parrott: acoustic bass, vocals
Chuck Redd: drums, vibraphone
"Little Johnny" Rivero: shakere, conga, bongo (5, 10, 13)