Mike Allen – Just Like Magic – Cellar Music CM010519 68:30****
( Mike Allen – tenor saxophone; Peter Washington – bass; Lewis Nash – drums)
If you happen to have a chance to see the wonderful film documentary Blue Note Records: Beyond The Notes do so. It tells the story of two German-Jewish immigrants Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff who came to the US before the start of World War II and founded the iconic jazz label Blue Note Records. It also outlines the importance of sound engineer Rudy Van Gelder who recorded many of the most significant early sides at his family’s living room in Hackensack New Jersey, ubiquitously known as the Van Gelder Studio.
Flash forward to the present time period, where Canadian tenor saxophonist Mike Allen accompanied by bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash under the watchful ears of Executive Producer and Cellar Music label owner Cory Weeds, would be recording this release Just Like Magic in Englewood Cliffs New Jersey, at the modern version of the Van Gelder Studio. Therein lies the musical tale.
The agreed compositions for this session are a combination of Mike Allen originals along with several notable jazz and American songbook numbers that would work well in the context of this tenor saxophone lead trio. Allen has a rather understated style coupled with a fluid tone. Although he would be supported by a bassist and drummer both of whom are masters of their craft, Allen would have to carry the melodic workload and any clunkers would be his to own. However no such misfortune occurred.
The opening track is an Allen original “Big Bertha”. The tune has a nice swinging lilt, with Washington and Nash delivering some bright support as Allen comes up with his carefully modulated solo. “A Weaver Of Dreams” written by John Elliott and Victor Young was first recorded by Bing Crosby in 1951, but has been covered by many popular singers and jazz musicians since then . It has a lovely ballad melody that plays into Allen’s ability to coax numerable textured lines as he develops his interpretation of the number.
In 1926, George and Ira Gershwin introduced “Someone To Watch Over Me” for the Broadway musical “Oh, Kay!”. Allen uses an elegant ballad approach to the composition filling it with warmth and a quiet eloquence. Washington takes a showy turn on his bass that is grounded in the earthy flow of the tune.
In 1962, John Coltrane and his quartet recorded his composition “Miles’Mode” for his album Coltrane at the Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs NJ. So it seems to be quite appropriate that Mike Allen is now recording his version of the number at the same location. Throughout the number, Allen conveys his own sense of originality for the composition. He plays with confidence as he constructs phrases and improvised lines.
Mike Allen covers Duke Ellington’s “Solitude” with a soulful demonstration that shows his reverence for a jazz classic. Bassist Washington and drummer Nash provide impeccable backing that is elegant and effortless.
All in all, this is a perceptive and spirited outing.
TrackList: Big Bertha; Klondike; A Weaver Of Dreams; Charlotte; Someone To Watch Over Me; The Man; Miles’ Mode; Metamorphosis; Solitude; Same Old Feeling; Jelly Roll
More Information at Cellar Live Website: