Harry Allen

New York State of Mind

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Swing to bop tenor saxophonist Harry Allen breezes along in style with his rounded and literate sound on yet another album, this time of New York City-inspired show tune standards played with heart and easygoing feeling. Several tracks feature the excellent trombonist John Allred, who by now should be garnering more attention as a Top Five performer on his instrument in the mainstream jazz world, and proves all he is worth alongside Allen. The tracks without the extra horn are not as interesting, but certainly give their share of pleasure for Allen's fans who enjoy his post-Lester Young/Stan Getz derivations. Pianist Rossano Sportiello is a crown jewel in these songs that glide along effortlessly, buoying Allen's swing on the lesser-known "Rose of Washington Square" from the repertoire of Red Nichols, a solidly-in-the-tradition "Broadway Melody," and Cole Porter's steady "Down in the Depths of the 90th Floor" (sung many years ago by Ethel Merman) with a drum intro by veteran Chuck Riggs. The typically sultry "Harlem Nocturne" is done so very slowly, it virtually crawls, while the Billy Joel ballad title track always seems a throwaway knock-off, and out of place. The highlight jams with Allen and Allred together include the Dixieland-style, counterpointed "Sidewalks of New York" written back in 1894, "Puttin' on the Ritz" with the horns trading quick and jabbing blows, a light bossa version "New York, New York," and a classic, happy take of "Chinatown My Chinatown," always a favorite in the book of Louis Armstrong. "Autumn in New York" has the lead instruments in patient, polite hand-offs, like a football backfield in slow motion. There's nothing fancy or extroverted about this music, just that it is honest should be good enough for anyone who enjoys mainstream jazz minus overt modernism. One wonders how many of these concept albums Allen will continue to churn out, but it most assuredly appeals to an audience willing to embrace it. Overall, New York State of Mind is a good follow-up to Allen's previous effort Hits by Brits.

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