Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

March/April 2011: Rufus Reid

Oliver Jones and Harry Allen:
Poetic License

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On April 10, the Izzy Asper Jazz Performances series ends its tenth year celebrations with the return of Montreal pianist Oliver Jones. He teams up with tenor saxophonist Harry Allen for a concert of Gershwin music. Expect some magic!

As Winnipeg audiences well know, Oliver Jones is a very bluesy, soulful musician. I think of him as the quintessential Hard Bop piano player—you’re going to hear a heavy influence of the blues, a little bit of gospel, a little bit of bebop, and some R&B flair. For those of us who dearly miss Oscar Peterson, you can find respite in Oliver Jones’ sound.

Oliver Jones famously retired from playing in 2000—but it didn’t really stick. He was lured back to the keyboard to finish Then and Now, a recording with bassist Skip Bey that he had begun a few years earlier, and he hasn’t looked back. He’s recorded four more since then, including Pleased to Meet You, a 2009 piano duo album with the wonderful late Hank Jones.

Jones has shared his musicality and generosity of spirit with us before, but this will be a first visit from Harry Allen, and I just know the audiences here will love him too.

When Harry Allen plays his tenor saxophone, you remember all that was good about Stan Getz. There’s that warm, full tone, and his improvisational style is like poetry. Listening to Harry Allen is like watching something very beautiful pass by very slowly.

Harry Allen is one of the last of the Mohicans. Nowadays, many saxophonists are chasing the myth of Coltrane, and hoping to make a mark somewhere alongside the likes of Wayne Shorter and Kenny Garret through velocity and technique. Harry Allen is not that musician. He certainly can play all the pyrotechnics, but he prefers to tell a beautiful story. If a gentleman is a person who has tons of technique and chooses not to use it all the time, Allen is the consummate gentleman.

Allen was born in Washington in 1966, and grew up on both the west and east coasts. Now he lives in New York City. He has played with more people than you can name—Rosemary Clooney, Ray Brown, Hank Jones, Kenny Burrell, John Pizzarelli, Kenny Barron—and has over twenty recordings to his name, including Tenors Anyone? and Eu Nao Quero Dancar (I Won’t Dance).

This concert has it all. Gershwin is gorgeous, and our guest artists have the eloquence to make it live. I get to hold down the rhythm section with my new favorite drummer, Quincy Davis. It can’t get much better than this!


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