Eddie Allen

Groove's Mood

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Trumpeter Eddie Allen assembled this 17-piece modern big band to play soul-jazz, post-bop sounds, and two Stevie Wonder tunes, all reflective of the baby and post-boomer generation. It's quite a collective of musicians who grew up in the '60s and '70s listening to the face of jazz starkly changing, and now in the 2000s keeping those sounds and styles alive. Among the respected veterans; trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater, trombonist Sam Burtis, Jack Jeffers on tuba and bass trombone, and baritone saxophonist Howard Johnson, while younger members include trumpeter John Bailey, saxophonists Dave Glasser, and Tia Fuller, pianist Bruce Barth, and drummer Carl Allen, among others. Together they sound good, interpreting the uncomplicated arrangements of Allen on several well-known songs. The one piece that stands out, though, is the four-part suite "The Black Coming," an instrumental tale of the African-American struggle to survive from their continental sojourn to the U.S., dealing with slavery, emancipation, and an unfortunate return to more subtle political or racial inequities. It's quite involved, deeply hued, moving quickly into the third segment "Jubilation" in 6/8 to bop style via Barth's solo, then into inexorable tick-tock, back-in-the-box mode all over again. The rest of the instrumental material sounds like it could have come from Cannonball Adderley's songbook. "Wade in the Water" starts in a free multiple horn layered intro, then struts its stuff in a big sound groove. Where "Groove's Mood" is pure soul-jazz, it's basic and head noddin' à la the best Count Basie/Oliver Nelson blues. The James Williams tribute "The Soulful Mister Timmons" for Bobby Timmons has a jaunty melody and perfectly accurate style for the pianist who worked with so many pioneers of the original amalgam of swing with rhythm & blues. Allen himself is well featured on the ballad "Tenderly," the samba "Brasilia" rolls along nicely parallel to the melody of "Watch What Happens" with a decent solo by Fuller, and Freddie Hubbard's "Sky Dive" is out of the blue in its clockwork beat and chest-puffed-out confidence. The Stevie Wonder tunes feature the delicate, low-key horns on "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" and the flute on "My Cherie Amour," both sung by LaTanya Hall, a bit over pronounced in the vibrato-accented Nancy Wilson tradition. There's an instrumental version of the former, but not the latter, which would be suited for a take, minus verse. This is a credible recording from some well-heeled musicians, probably better served by an expanded repertoire or live festival performance to fully exploit their immense collective talent.

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