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Issue 1084

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Review

Brandon Allen: The Gene Ammons Project

Brandon Allen: The Gene Ammons Project

8

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UK release date 15.09.2017

There never was another tenor player quite like Gene Ammons, often overlooked by the likes of Dexter Gordon and Sonny Stitt but tenor man Brandon Allen, who is unequivocally at the top of his game, aims to redress the balance with this fine homage to the man they called 'Jug'. With his quartet in tow, Allen leads the parade on some rather exciting performances. Recorded with an ambient reverb that is highly reminiscent of a classic Blue Note sound.Allen's sax has never sounded better and the medium swing of "Please Baby Won't You Please Say Yes" kicks off with excellent aplomb, swinging sax and piano solos and some deft trading fours with drummer Matt Home sees proceedings get off to a fervent and bouncy start.

Leading us into some Latin lushness with the "Green Dolphin Street" inspired "The Breeze And I" brings a subtle mood change. Again it's dominated by Allen leading the way in restrained but forceful fashion but hey let's not forget pianist Ross Stanley, who proves to be an excellent co host at this swing jazz jazz party! Stanley's choice rhodes figures on 'Ger-ru too, give textural highlight underneath Allen's gritty and highly expressive playing. Bass player Arnie Somogyi gets a look in too with his full - toned acoustic bass on this slow bluesy gem of a tune.This is a highly honed rhythm section who swing harder than a hangman's noose all beautifully captured by producer Chris Kalcov.

Allen proves himself to be a giant of the instrument on the exquisite title and ballad "I Sold My Heart To The Junkman" and to my mind, he channels the great Charlie Rouse.What's apparent about this project is that it highlights Allen's versatility whether it be the early soul inflected R&B ballad of 'Ben' or the piercing chromatic blues on the soul jazz zip of "The Black Cat".

This platter provides a great cross-section of Ammons contribution to jazz and Allen should be utterly commended for putting this retrospective salute together. These are marvellous interpretations of Ammons' highly approachable music.
Words Emrys Baird

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