Henry "Red" Allen And His Orchestra
Recording Date: Jul 16, 1929-Nov 9, 1933
Retro-records with sound artefact
The first of a five-volume CD series released by the European Classics label that reissues all of the recordings led by trumpeter Red Allen during 1929-41 is one of the best. The great trumpeter is first heard fronting the Luis Russell Orchestra for such classics as "It Should Be You" and "Biff'ly Blues," he interacts with blues singer Victoria Spivey, and on the selections from 1933 (two of which were previously unreleased) he co-leads a group with tenor-saxophonist Coleman Hawkins. Not all of the performances are gems but there are many memorable selections including "How Do They Do It That Way," "Pleasin' Paul," "Sugar Hill Function,," and "Patrol Wagon Blues." Other soloists include trombonists J.C. Higginbottham and Dicky Wells, clarinetist Albert Nicholas and altoist Charlie Holmes.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Henry "Red Allen" was heavily impressed and influenced by Louis Armstrong, both as a trumpet player and singer. However there have always been a lot of elements in his music that belonged exclusively to Red Allen: With the probable exception of Roy Eldridge he was second to none as far as power and impact are concerned though his warm ballad playing is just as timeless!
Henry James "Red" Allen was born in New Orleans on January 7, 1908. His father and uncles were all active musicians in that city. Young Red first started playing violin but soon concentrated on working with his father's band on trumpet. Before turning twenty, Red Allen had already played with many local bands and travelled with King Oliver to St. Louis and New York. Between 1928 and early 1929 his horn could mostly be heard on riverboats with the legendary Fate Marable. Moving to New York for good, he stayed with Luis Russell until 1932 but was already able to record many fabulous sides under his own name. Shorter engagements with Charlie Johnson's and Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra were followed by an extended stint with the Blue Rhythm Band, directed by Lucky Millinder. Between 1937 and 1940 Red Allen was in the band of Louis Armstrong with whom he recorded frequently though hardly ever as a soloist. For the next 25 years Red Allen worked almost exclusively with his own various groups. Playing longer and shorter residencies all over the United States, his bands were mostly heard in New York clubs. Between 1953 and 1965 he was regularly featured at the Metropole near Times Square. His first visit to Europe finally materialized in 1959 as a member of trombonist Kid Ory's band. He soon returned and toured Britain several times during the early sixties. Red Allen was recovering from a serious illness when his last European visit took place in early 1967. Only six weeks after his return, Henry "Red" Allen died of cancer on April 17, 1967 in New York.
This first volume of Red Allen's studio recordings in chronological order includes his entire works from the beginnings at a record studio into his last session of 1933. The first 16 sides of the present CD are not only the best known records of Red's but are among the finest Jazz of the period! Although these sides have often been re-issued on LP it is lovely to have these gems, one after another, on CD! The fantastic group is actually Luis Russell's band with which Red Allen worked at the time. The rhythm section with Pops Foster's powerful bass and Will Johnson's effective solos-listen to him on "Biff'ly Blues"! - was as important for the overall sound of the group as were Luis Russell's simple but ingenious arrangements that left a lot of solo space for the excellent horns! "Feeling Drowsy", probably Red Allen's best track of this batch, sounds a bit like Duke Ellington's "The Mooche". The sides from 1933 were made with musicians from Fletcher Henderson's band and feature some rhapsodic playing by Coleman Hawkins, swinging Dickie Wells and the ever so unmistakable trumpet of Red Allen! To be continued...
- Anatol Schenker, July 1990.