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Track listing:
1. North Greenbush Blues
2. Speed Trap
3. Winter Birds
4. Sodwanna Bay
5. Why Are You Blues
6. Fragile Creature
7. Georgia Grump
8. Barbara
9. Northbeach

Dave Fisk (Alto sax)
Lee Russo (Tenor Sax, Soprano)
Kevin Barcomb (Tenor Sax)  
Nate Giroux (Tenor Sax)
Scott Hall (Baritone Sax)
Chris Pasin (Trumpet, Flhn)
Dylan Canterbury (Trumpet, Flhn)
Steve Lambert (Trumpet, Flhn)
Phil Allen (Valve Trombone)
Tyler Giroux (Valve Trombone)
Wayne Hawkins (Piano)
Lou Smaldone (Bass)
Michael Benedict (Drums)

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Click here to learn more about Phil Allen

North Greenbush Blues

by Tom Pierce

After consistently enjoying numerous exciting live performances of this uniquely talented 12-piece band since their 2016 inception, it’s a special pleasure now to also have an excellent recording to listen to. The 9 diverse tracks clearly demonstrate not only their exceptional soloing & ensemble capabilities, but also the impressive composing/ arranging chops of Phil Allen on 7 tunes, as well as Dylan Canterbury & Chris Pasin on the songs they each created.

The opening title track alludes to the town in Rennselaer county where Allen & his wife relocated to in 2014 from Colorado. It’s a pleasing medium tempo swing tune, where it would be fun to watch some fine dancers groove to the smooth ensemble passages and invigorating solos by Scott Hall, Dave Fisk and Wayne Hawkins.

Dylan Canterbury composed & arranged “Speed Trap”, a brisk Be-Bop burner, featuring dynamic solos by himself, as well as Wayne Hawkins and Kevin Barcomb on tenor.

“Sodwanna Bay” begins with an intriguingly atmospheric melody that would work well to open up a film soundtrack. It includes captivating solos by Phil Allen and Dylan Canterbury, interspersed with the band’s usual tight support passages. The composition was inspired Phil Allen’s fascination with the African continent; and specifically with photos of the area around a body of water off the northeast coast of South Africa. It’s in Sodwana Bay National Park, and the Maputaland Marine Reserve, and is a popular recreational diving destination.

A good part of the credit for the inclusion of the late Gary McFarland’s poignant and buoyant composition “Why Are You Blue” should go to Michael Benedict, who also included it on his captivating 2015 CD by his Gary McFarland Legacy Ensemble. Phil Allen arranged this moving version, with touching solos by Tyler Giroux and Lee Russo. Benedict, as fans of this Concert Jazz band are well aware, also deserves accolades for his key role assisting Allen in creating this band in 2015, as well as holding down the drum chair.

“Fragile Creature” is the compellingly haunting creation of trumpeter Chris Pasin, who’s worked with the big bands of Buddy Rich and Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin, among other notables. He initially featured it on his enchanting 2015 “Random Acts of Kindness” CD that included pianist Wayne Hawkins who also does an exceptional job on this CD.
I wish there was space to describe in detail ALL of the attractive tunes on this well-constructed CD. It has the kind of rich balance between solos & ensemble work, as well as variance in tempos & keys to consistently capture & hold a listener’s attention. Another especially pleasing quality to this listener is their blending accessible MUSICALITY with enough of an exciting EDGE for a truly interesting, well-rounded product.

Phil Allen & his well-chosen cohorts can be very proud of their initial recording as a unit that I’m sure will be on my 2018 “Top Five” list.

Tom Pierce has had a burning passion for Jazz for over 50 years, initiated and fueled by seeing live in New York City, starting in the early 1960's, virtually every major artist still performing. He's been very happily living in Guilderland since 2001, as an active retiree sharing his love of music by writing online reviews for a number of web sites, preparing DVD presentations to various groups, co-Hosting Radio programs showcasing his favorite artists and busily supporting A Place for Jazz in a variety of ways.