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THE INCOMPARABLE HENRY “RED” ALLEN

The Golden Years, Vols 1-4

Upbeat

 


Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4

 


 

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?

3. Rosetta

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

10. Truckin’

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

16. Lost

17. I’ll Bet You Tell That to All the Girls

18. Every Minute of the Hour

19. You

20. Tormented

21. Nothing Blue but the Sky

22. Would You?

23. Take My Heart

24. Chloe

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

23. Indiana

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 (London, 2000).

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.

Upbeat CDs are available on the Upbeat web site www.upbeat.co.uk as well as on-line from sites such as Amazon and CD Universe.

Bert Thompson


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