Harry Allen, Saxophone
Joe Cohn, Guitar
Dennis Irwin, Bass
Chuck Riggs, Drums
349 West 46th Street
NY, NY 10036
By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 17, 2003
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Now that Swing 46 has temporarily closed its dance floor and set up bistro tables and candles, a new venue for Jazz has been emerging in the midst of Restaurant Row. I did not see dinners, but I did see drinks, and this was a happy crowd. On this particular night I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing the great saxophonist, Harry Allen, a new friend, and his three band members, Joe Cohn on guitar, Chuck Riggs on drums, and Dennis Irwin on bass. To make the evening even much more serendipitous, there were many well-known Jazz musicians in the audience, and a veritable Jam Session ensued, with Guest Artists taking turns onstage, including Hilliard Greene on bass, Richie Vitaly on trumpet, Bob Merrill on trumpet, Steve Ash on piano, Daryl Sherman and Marty Elkins, vocalists, Andy Brown on guitar, George Hooks on drums, and Neal Miner on bass.
Love Walked In was the first piece that I heard, with a very rhythmic guitar and well-blended quartet. Lover Come Back to Me (in A flat, according to my guest, Hilliard Greene) had almost the speedy Swing rhythm of the Django Reinhardt music that I love. This was not a staccato, tinny, steel sound. This was a sound you could dance to, and, even when the sax was silent, the remaining trio had a dynamic intensity. The solo bass was fully capable of maintaining the momentum, as Irwin was very capable of keeping the melody and mood in a constant flow. At times, a progressive jazz motif was apparent, and, at times, there was a distinct Swing beat.
The Touch of Your Lips was a superb Swing piece, good for a dance event, with portions suitable for a robust Foxtrot. Irwin's solo bass was strong, and Allen barely took a breath, as he seamlessly wound his was through this fantastic tune on his painted saxophone. Mr. George blasted in with a peppy upbeat lead from Allen's sax, but this was not a predictable tune, as it was irrepressibly hither and fro, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes dissonant, sometimes melodic. Cohn has a relaxed way with his steel stringed-guitar, and he rapidly performed in the style of the guitar duos. I liked the way Allen introduced the theme and then let it go, from musician to musician, as it took on new sounds and attitudes. A duet with bass and drums took the second theme, which was mellow and tricky, and Mr. George ended in cacophony. Riggs' percussion was critical to this explosive piece.
Moonlight in Vermont has always been one of my favorite songs, especially since I have spent so much time in Vermont. In contrast to the previous piece, this one was smooth and melodic, sexy and sensual. Cohn's guitar was very effective, and Allen's long, soulful notes on his seasoned sax were inspiring. Irwin's bass added an earthiness to this evocative piece. In The King, this quartet stirred the audience with a powerful Swing Beat, fast and progressive, wild and warm. This was the strongest and most vibrant piece in the set, and the bass and drum duo, to be repeated from time to time in this and other pieces, was extremely engaging. As the Swing 46 space has some air-conditioning problems, and this reviewer was wearing a coat indoors, The King was a welcome warm-up, with a counterpoint rhythm on guitar and sax -- two distinctly different takes and very exciting to experience.
After the break, the jam session began with You and Me, with Richie Vitaly on a steady and outstanding trumpet, sounding like an extremely professional musician. His trumpet was seamless, progressive, and well blended to the other instruments. Allen and Vitaly took turns with the lead, enabling the audience to hear different brass and different tonalities along the same themes. The musicians switched off from one to the other with a very relaxed attitude and pattern. In When Lights are Low, which could have served as background for a smooth Foxtrot, Vitaly's trumpet was a nice addition, with the feel of a percussive horn. The musicians took recognizable themes here, broke them up, and reconstructed them again. The following pieces made room for all the guests mentioned above, with both Merrill and Vitaly on alternating and teamed trumpets, and with both Greene and Miner taking turns on bass. At times, Allen performed with extremely long-winded solos on sax, cheeks full of air, but in a most relaxed and refined manner. In addition, Greene's bass was mellow and steady, strong and melancholy.
In After You've Gone, played in a medium rhythm, fast Swing or slow Foxtrot, I really wished Swing 46 had maintained the dance code. This was an infectiously danceable piece, and the musicians and vocalists took the space by storm. It should be mentioned that Ms. Sherman and Ms. Elkins had very likable and enticing voices and that Ash's piano pulled the jam session together, with the added solos and riffs that only a seasoned pianist can produce. Brown's guitar was pleasantly surprising, and Miner performed some excellent, solo passages on bass. Merrill is an exciting musician and gave me a wonderful Swing CD, Catch as Catch Can. Hooks brought some sharp moments to the percussive jam, but Riggs kept a well-blended percussive tone inherent in the entire concert. Kudos to Harry Allen for a great performance by his Quartet, and kudos to the musicians and vocalists who jammed with dynamic dexterity and sensational singing.
Photos by Roberta Zlokower
Harry Allen on Sax
Dennis Irwin on Bass
Harry Allen, Dennis Irwin, Joe Cohn
Harry Allen and Guest, Hilliard Greene
Roberta and Harry Allen (photo by Hilliard G.)
Harry Allen and Olivia
Richie Vitaly on Trumpet
Richie Vitaly, Harry Allen, Joe Cohn
Hilliard Greene Joins on Bass
Bob Merrill on Trumpet
Bob Merrill, Hilliard Greene, Harry Allen
Steve Ash on Piano
Bob Merrill and Hilliard Greene
Hilliard Greene and Harry Allen
Richie Vitaly on Trumpet
Hilliard Greene on Bass
Daryl Sherman and Harry Allen
Andy Brown on Guitar
George Hooks on Drums
Richie Vitaly and Chuck Riggs
Neal Miner on Bass
Marty Elkins and Harry Allen
Harry Allen and the Gang
Andy Brown, Joe Cohn, Petra Jensen (Friend)