Ben Allison: Fred




Ben Allison (bass, guitar)


Think Free (Palmetto 2140)

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Ben Allison (bass, guitar), Jenny Scheinman (violin), Steve Cardenas (guitar),

Shane Endsley (trumpet), Rudy Royston (drums)


Composed by Ben Allison


Recorded: Maggie's Farm, Pennsylvania, June 23-24, 2009


Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

Most new millennium jazz talents show off their influences with such zeal, that there is little left after you peel away the post-Blue Note, post-Brecker, post-Trane, post-whatever elements in their music. But Ben Allison is not that kind of artist. His compositions are beguiling structures of sound seemingly constructed on their own in-born impulses. There are clever touches, but they are woven so well into the flow of the song that the casual listener will hardly notice.

Check out "Fred," for example, with its nice turnaround at bar eight, leading into a restatement of the A theme which—surprise!—is two bars longer the second time around. Then the bridge stretches out to an unconventional 18 bars, which is not comme il faut but not really asymmetrical any more, since the two A themes also added up to 18 bars. No, a 36 bar structure is not your typical song form, but it sounds fresh and free here.

Allison throws in a spacey interlude, and by the time you get to the violin solo, you may have forgotten this is a jazz track. It sounds like a soundtrack to a state of mind. The band, for its part, has left the standard virtuoso demonstrations of technique back home, and instead aims to match the mood of the music, which it does with perfection. All in all, you won't find much ostentation here, but make no mistake, Allison's group is one of the finest chamber jazz ensembles around.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


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