THE INCOMPARABLE HENRY “RED” ALLEN
The Golden Years,
Vol. 1 - Upbeat URCD288 – time: 71m. 34s.
1. Someday, Sweetheart
2. I Wish I Could Shimmy like My Sister Kate
3. The River’s Takin’ Care of Me
4. Ain’tcha Got Music?
5. Stringin’ Along on a Shoestring
6. Shadows on the Swanee
7. The Day You Came Along
8. Jamaica Shout
9. Heartbreak Blues
10. Hush My Mouth
11. You’re Gonna Lose Your Gal
12. Dark Clouds
13. My Galveston Gal
14. I Wish I Were Twins
15. I Never Slept a Wink Last Night
16. Why Don’t You Practice What You Preach?
17. Don’t Let Your Love Go Wrong
18. There’s a House in Harlem for Sale
19. Pardon My Southern Accent
20. Rug Cutter Swing
21. How about Tomorrow Night?
22. Believe It, Beloved
23. Believe It, Beloved [alternate take, non-vocal]
24. It’s Written all over Your Face
Recorded in New York Mar. 27, 1933 through Jan. 23, 1935
Vol. 2 - Upbeat URCD289 – time: 71m. 17s.
1. We’re Gonna Have Smooth Sailing
2. Whose Honey Are You?
4. Body and Soul
5. I’ll Never Say “Never Again” Again
6. Get Rhythm in Your Feet (and Music in Your Soul)
7. Dinah Lou
8. Roll Along, Prairie Moon
9. I Walked on the Moon
11. I Found a Dream
12. On Treasure Island
13. Red Sails in the Sunset
14. Take Me Back to My Boots and Saddle
15. The Touch of Your Lips
17. I’ll Bet You Tell That to All the Girls
18. Every Minute of the Hour
21. Nothing Blue but the Sky
22. Would You?
23. Take My Heart
Recorded in New York Jan. 23, 1935 through June 10, 1936
Vol. 3 - Upbeat URCD294 – time 69m. 17s.
1. You’re Not the Kind
2. On the Beach at Bali Bali
3. When Did You Leave Heaven?
4. Am I Asking Too Much?
5. Until Today
6. Algiers Stomp
7. Darling Not Without You
8. I’ll Sing You a Thousand Love Songs
9. Picture Me Without You
10. (Trouble Ends) Out Where the Blues Begins
11. Midnight Blue
12. Lost in My Dreams
13. Sitting on the Moon
14. Whatcha Gonna Do When There Ain’t No Swing?
15. Did You Mean It?
16. ere’s Lovwe in Your EyeHere
In the Chapel in the Moonlight
17. Here’s Love in Your Eye
18. When My Dreamboat Comes Home
19. I Adore You
20. He Ain’t Got Rhythm
21. This Year’s Kisses
22. Let’s Put Our Heads Together
23. After Last Night with You
24. Goodnight, My Lucky Day
Recorded in New York June 19, 1936 through Mar. 4, 1937
Vol. 4 - Upbeat URCD295 – time 68m. 06s.
1. There’s a Kitchen up in Heaven
2. I Was Born to Swing
3. Sticks and Stones
4. Meet Me in the Moonlight
5. Don’t You Care What Anyone Says?
6. A Love Song of Long Ago
7. Till the Clock Strikes Three
8. The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down
9. You’ll Never Go to Heaven (if You Break My Heart)
10. The Miller’s Daughter, Marianne
11. I Owe You
12. Have You Ever Been in Love?
13. Is It Love or Infatuation?
14. Can’t I Forget You?
15. Down in Jungle Town
16. Canal Street Blues
17. K. K. Boogie
18. Sometimes I’m Happy – Part 1
19. Sometimes I’m Happy – Part 2
20. Ol’ Man River
21. A Sheridan Square
22. Siesta at the Fiesta
24. Jack the Bellboy
Recorded in New York Mar. 4, 1937 through July 22, 1941
Collective personnel includes:
Henry Red Allen – Trumpet and vocals
Coleman Hawkins, Cecil Scott – Tenor sax
Buster Bailey, Willie Humphrey – Clarinet
J. C. Higginbotham, George Washington – Trombone
Horace Henderson, Luis Russell, Billy Kyle – Piano
Lawrence Lucie, Danny Barker – Guitar
Pops Foster, Elmer James – String bass
Paul Barbarin, Kaiser Marshall, Cozy Cole – Drums
and too many others to list.
All of the CDs in this four-CD set feature Henry “Red” Allen on trumpet and
vocals. The first volume contains tracks by Henry Allen-Coleman Hawkins and
Their Orchestra, Coleman Hawkins and His Orchestra, and Henry Allen and His
Orchestra. The other three comprise tracks by Henry Allen and His
Orchestra. The set is dedicated to the memory of John Chilton, who wrote
the Allen biography Ride, Red, Ride: The Life of Henry 'Red' Allen
Born of a bandleader father in New Orleans in 1908, Henry “Red” Allen was
given trumpet lessons, and by the time he was a teenager, he was playing
professionally. (As to his curious nickname, Allen being an
African-American, Allen responded when asked: “I was light skinned and my
face got red as I blew.”) After an initial move to New York in 1927 to tour
with King Oliver, Allen, homesick, returned to New Orleans. He left New
Orleans for New York again in 1929, this time for good.
During his musical career, as well as leading his own groups he played and
recorded with almost everyone of note—a Who’s Who of the jazz
world—including Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Sam
Morgan, George Lewis, Kid Ory, Eddie Condon, Lionel Hampton, Jack
Teagarden—the list could go on and on. He played with brass bands,
riverboat bands, dance bands, large orchestras and small groups, and played
both jazz and swing. Over his playing career of some 40-odd years, he made
well over 100 recordings on a variety of labels, including Victor,
Vocalion, Decca, and Verve.
However, despite his having been born in New Orleans, his having played
there at the beginning of his career, and his having later played with New
Orleans-style bands such as those of Oliver, Morton, Lewis, and Ory, and
other traditional jazzmen, he was not content to stay with that style, it
seems. He was perhaps influenced by the bands he played with and led in New
York and Chicago, and he was open to experimentation. His style was quite
individual, as one can hear readily on these recordings from his middle
period when he was, according to many reviewers, at his height. He always
could, as occasion demanded, “fit” right into the style of the band of the
moment with which he was playing.
Not many of these tracks would qualify as standards in the jazz world—or at
least the traditional jazz one. Many, perhaps most, are ballads that were
unfamiliar to me and are sung by Allen, but even in the instrumental
choruses on which he plays he puts his stamp. He is given to fast tonguing,
as we hear in Body and Soul (v. 2, #4) with its ascendant and
descendant runs or Indiana (v. 4, #23) to mention just a couple of
instances. He will also stab at notes, often an octave or more apart,
showing his sure command of registers, one such example being found in After Last Night with You (v. 3, #23). There can be
little doubt that in technique he was second to none.
In addition, by way of experimentation Allen personalizes many of the tunes
by choosing an unusual tempo—for instance the very slow tempo ofCanal Street Blues (v. 4, #16) or the very fast one of We’re Gonna Have Smooth Sailing (v. 2, #1). He is also not averse
to a short, rubato-type introductory phrase, as he shows on Rosetta (v. 2, #3) where it also allows for a slight surprise as
the piece kicks into a brisk tempo immediately thereafter when the others
come in, or again a similar introduction in Lost in My Dreams
(v.s, #12). Or he can change the rhythm by switching to Latin for the
bridge as he does in Lost in My Dreams.
As one listens to the tracks on these discs, it becomes clear that Allen
was drawn to the swing genre, being backed on many tunes by ensemble
riffing. He had the good fortune to be blessed with good arrangers, none
being named in any of the volumes. But the groups, all from six to nine
pieces, are made to sound larger via these arrangements, giving the
impression they are big swing bands. In keeping with that his vocals are
also very much in the swing genre. He has a pleasant baritone voice which
is easy to listen to, and he obviously loves to sing, taking a vocal on
most numbers in this set.
This compilation is a useful representation of much of Allen’s middle
period. In 1929 Allen was signed to a recording contract by Victor records
as that company searched for a response to Okeh records’ great success with
one Louis Armstrong. (Another “answer” to Armstrong was supposed to be
Jabbo Smith on Brunswick.) And although that quest was of dubious success,
it does show the regard in which Allen was held so early in his career. His
individual, unique style, which probably was an added inducement to Victor,
is apparent in this set. The listener gets some four and three-quarter
hours of superb music.
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