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Brandon Allen Quartet

Brandon Allen Quartet, ‘The Stanley Turrentine Project’ The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 12/03/2022.

Photography: Photograph by Hamish Kirkpatrick of Shrewsbury Jazz Network.

by Ian Mann

March 14, 2022


This was a performance full of energy and brio with, all four musicians right on top of their game and impressing both individually and collectively.

Brandon Allen Quartet, ‘The Stanley Turrentine Project’ The Hive Music & Media Centre,
Shrewsbury, 12/03/2022

Brandon Allen – tenor saxophone, Will Barry – keyboard, Conor Chaplin – double bass, electric bass, Dave Ingamells – drums

Shrewsbury Jazz Network’s latest event saw a welcome return from the popular Australian born, London based saxophonist Brandon Allen.

Allen’s last gig for SJN was in May 2019 when he visited The Hive as co-leader of the BATL Quartet, a group also featuring pianist Tim Lapthorn, bassist Tim Thornton and tonight’s drummer Dave Ingamells. A different version of this band featuring the rhythm section of Arnie Somogyi – (double bass) and Lloyd Haines (drums) released the album “BATL Live”, recorded at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, London, later in that year. Both the album and the Shrewsbury live performance are reviewed elsewhere on this site.

Previous visits by Allen included a 2014 gig when he fronted a quartet featuring pianist Steve Melling and the Midlands based rhythm section of bassist Tom Hill and drummer Miles Levin.

The seeds for tonight’s event were sown in May 2017 when Allen brought his Gene Ammons Project to The Hive, a quartet featuring Somogyi on bass, Ross Stanley on keyboards and Matt Home at the drums. This represented a tribute to the now relatively unknown American tenor sax specialist Gene Ammons (1925-74), popularly known as ‘Jug’. Again an album, “The Gene Ammons Project”, this time featuring exactly the same personnel, was released later in the year. Again, both the Shrewsbury performance and the recording are reviewed elsewhere on this site.

The success of the Ammons project helped to inspire Allen’s latest homage, a tribute to the late Stanley Turrentine (1934 – 2000), another musician best known for his mastery of the tenor saxophone. Like Ammons Turrentine is a relatively forgotten figure these days, some twenty years after his death. Nevertheless Turrentine was a popular figure back in the day, starting out with drummer Max Roach before forging a successful solo career and recording albums for the Blue Note, Impulse!, CTI and Fantasy labels. Like Ammons Turrentine often recorded jazz versions of popular tunes and included songs from Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and The Beatles in his repertoire. Arguably his commercial success as a ‘crossover’ artist in the 1970s may have detracted from his subsequent critical reputation.

Allen clearly feels that it is time for the value of Turrentine’s work to be re-assessed as he explains in his liner notes for the “Turrentine Project” album, recently released on Ubuntu Music;
“The Stanley Turrentine Project came about because of a deep admiration and respect for the late, great saxophonist’s musical approach and output. This was also a follow on from my previous explorations into another great tenor man, Gene Ammons. Like Ammons, I have always loved Stanley’s way of phrasing and his unmistakable sound. Turrentine made his name with such legends as Jimmy Smith, Freddie Hubbard, George Benson and numerous others. His albums on the Blue Note and CTI labels in particular have become jazz classics. His soulful, expressive and fluid style has always appealed to me. When putting this project together I deliberated over the choice of tunes for some time. Listening to as many albums as I could, discovering some gems along the way, I slowly began to pick out some selections that resonated with me and that would work well with this line up. I then began to arrange these for the quartet. Some of the original versions were orchestral in nature and so I tried to capture the essence of that large ensemble feeling. With the other tracks I have taken the main elements of the song but have made some small alterations, textural changes here, and there, and opened up certain sections for solos. I hope that we’ve captured some of the ‘spirit’ of Stanley Turrentine’s wonderful music. Enjoy!”.

Meanwhile on his website Allen states;
“This is very much a labour of love. My deep respect for Stanley Turrentine’s music has guided me in putting together these arrangements and in my selection of what I believe is my strongest band to date. I believe that we’ve captured some of the ‘spirit’ of the music and I can’t wait to share this album with the world.  Basically, I’m re-imagining the music. It’s not a direct tribute, but it’s certainly a homage; not trying to play like Stanley Turrentine, but taking some of the tunes and being inspired by the vibe of it.”

The band that Allen has put together for this project is one of young, but already highly experienced, jazz musicians who bring a phenomenal amount of energy and technical skill to the music. Barry, Chaplin and Ingamells all appear on the “The Stanley Turrentine Project” album, which was recorded on 4th January 2022 at London’s Fish Factory Studio and rush released to coincide with the quartet’s still ongoing UK tour, a remarkably rapid turnaround even by (or maybe especially for) jazz standards.

The album features eleven compositions associated with Turrentine and all were performed at Shrewsbury tonight, albeit in a different running order. As Allen later explained to me what might work as a sequence on a studio recording may differ in the context of a live show, where the art of pacing and dynamics becomes even more important. At approximately the half way point of the current tour the band have perfected the live performance sequence and are also playing with that perfect mix of discipline and abandon that characterises the best jazz performances. I was impressed by their collective energy throughout and also by the brilliance of the individual solos, which displayed imagination, skill and verve.

“You’ll probably know this song” dead-panned Allen as he introduced the first item on the agenda, an arrangement of The Beatles song “Can’t Buy Me Love”, also the first track on the “Turrentine Project” album. Taken at a fast, swinging pace the performance featured Allen’s earthy r’n’b style tenor sax on the opening theme statement, followed by the fiendishly inventive soloing of Barry at his Nord 2 keyboard, which remained on an acoustic piano setting for most of the evening. Allen’s own solo saw him blowing up a powerful storm as Ingamells laid down a sturdy back beat. Chaplin was also to feature on double bass, his reputation as a fluent soloist and immaculate time keeper making him a ‘first call’ on both the acoustic and electric versions of his instrument across a variety of jazz genres.

Next came the standard “You’re Going To Hear From Me”, written in 1965 by Andre and Dory Previn and a hit for Andy Williams. It was one of those items originally recorded as a large ensemble piece with Turrentine the featured soloist. Here the first solo went to Allen, who although playing wholly acoustically (no mics) still generated plenty of punch and power as the quartet approximated the heft of the larger unit. Barry’s solo was another feverishly inventive offering and Chaplin was to feature as a bass soloist once more. The piece concluded with a solo tenor sax cadenza from the leader, into which he inserted a welcome dash of humour.

The quartet’s version of Cole Porter’s “Love For Sale” was inspired by the 1961 Turrentine recording “Live at Minton’s”. Introduced by a combination of bass and drums, later joined by piano, the piece exploded into life with a powerful Allen solo that injected a splash of wilful dissonance into the proceedings. Further solos came from Barry and Chaplin while Ingamells impressed with his overall performance, his refreshingly crisp drumming combining power with precision, swing with detail and nuance.

The Ray Charles song “What Could I Do Without You” was the most laid back item thus far, but was no less powerful for that. Drenched in gospel this featured Allen as the preacher, sermonising on his tenor and wailing the blues. Barry and Chaplin maintained the mood with their piano and bass solos.

The first half concluded with an arrangement of the pop hit “Little Green Apples” that saw Chaplin moving to five string electric bass and Barry adopting an electric piano or ‘Rhodes’ sound at the keyboard. This represented an example of Turrentine’s ‘crossover’ work and included an extended solo from Allen, featuring the blues influenced sound so beloved of Turrentine. Barry weighed in with an inventive Rhodes solo that floated above the sounds of a funky electric bass and drum groove plus Allen’s circling sax vamp.

The first set had featured the first five tracks of the album, albeit in a slightly different running order, thus essentially the first half of the album. Set two was to feature the second half of the recording, again with slight adjustments to the running order and with a greater focus on Turrentine’s original compositions.

“Let It Go” began the second set and was the first of three Turrentine originals to feature in this half of the performance. In introducing the piece Allen explained that he had deliberately omitted Turentine’s best known tune, the title track of his 1971 album “Sugar” in favour of this, the title track of a 1966 set recorded for Impulse! Records. This was recorded with a quartet featuring Turrentine’s wife, Hammond organist Shirley Scott, who also recorded under her own name, often for the Prestige label. Jazz was always something of a family affair for Turrentine, who sometimes performed alongside his trumpeter brother, Tommy.
In the hands of the Allen quartet “Let It Go” was a fiercely swinging nugget of hard bop / soul jazz with solos from Allen on tenor and Barry on acoustic piano, plus a skilfully constructed solo drum feature from Ingamells. The piece then concluded with an unaccompanied tenor sax cadenza from the leader.

The lengthy composition “The Island”, by Ivan Lins, was sourced from an album Turrentine recorded in the 1970s for the Fantasy record label, once home to Creedence Clearwater Revival. Ushered in by piano bass and drums the piece negotiated numerous twists and turns and incorporated a range of styles and dynamics as it introduced bossa and latin elements. It represents the lengthiest track on the album and tonight included extended solos from Allen on tenor, Barry at the piano and Chaplin on double bass.

Next came an intriguing arrangement of The Beatles song “Fool On The Hill”, which took on something of a kaleidoscopic quality, again embracing a variety of moods and styles with Barry moving between acoustic and electric sounds at the keyboard.  Allen’s tenor solo was accompanied by the sounds of Rhodes, propulsive double bass and crisp, driving drums. Barry then switched to ‘acoustic’ piano for his own solo.

Allen explained that he saw the Stevie Wonder composition “Evil” as a “slow build” as the piece grew from ballad like beginnings featuring a combination of synth, electric and acoustic piano sounds plus the sight of Chaplin back on electric bass. Allen’s bluesy tenor sax solo was a reminder of Wonder’s, and soul music in general’s, roots in gospel and the blues. Barry deployed a Rhodes sound for his solo as the pace began to build, the music taking on a genuinely anthemic quality as Allen’s declamatory tenor eventually returned.

The set concluded with Turrentine’s own “Mississippi City Strut”, with its funky Rhodes and electric bass grooves topped off by bluesy, soulful tenor sax, the whole driven along by Ingamells’ sturdy drumming. Barry’s solo featured a classic ‘Rhodes’ sound, while Chaplin’s feature incorporated the liquid sounds of Pastorius inspired electric bass.

The deserved encore was another Turrentine original, “And Satisfy”, which saw Allen going walkabout amongst the audience, seeking out SJN’s Laurie Grey. This was another example of ‘classic’ Turrentine, with bluesy hard edged tenor riding a scalding groove straight out of the hard bop tradition. Allen’s tenor honked and hollered, reaching up into the instrument’s upper register. Barry switched back to acoustic piano for a final solo that maintained the levels of vigour and invention that we had enjoyed from him all evening. Ingamells was also featured with a series of fiery, colourful drum breaks, trading fours with Barry and other members of the band. A great, high energy way to round off a terrific evening of jazz.

The only disappointment was that the audience numbers were down on the previous month and the visit of saxophonist Mark Lockheart and his ‘Dreamers’ quartet. Too many sax players in quick succession maybe, or a case of over familiarity, with Allen making his fourth visit to The Hive as leader or co-leader?

Whatever, the stayaways missed a treat as Allen and his quartet channelled the spirit of Stanley Turrentine with verve, passion, skill and soul. Honed by their time on the road this was a performance full of energy and brio with all four musicians right on top of their game and impressing both individually and collectively.

Will Barry, in particular, has made many new fans on this tour, his energetic and restlessly inventive solos capturing the ears of listeners the length and breadth of the UK. He’s the perfect foil for Allen’s own powerful and fluent tenor soloing and together with Chaplin and Ingamells he also forms part of an impeccable rhythm team. Chaplin also impressed as a soloist on both acoustic and electric bass while Ingamells enjoyed his occasional features, while drumming immaculately throughout the set. I’m sometimes a little wary of these ‘tribute’ themed performances but tonight’s show exceeded my expectations, thanks to the imaginative arrangements, great playing and the sheer energy of the band. Those that were there gave the quartet a terrific reception. Brandon Allen’s love affair with Shrewsbury isn’t over yet.

My thanks for Brandon for speaking with me afterwards and providing me with a copy of the “Turrentine Project” album, which has been invaluable in the writing of this review – it’s playing as I type.

The “Turrentine Project” tour continues with remaining dates as follows;

Fri, Mar 18 The Bear Club (Luton)

Sat, Mar 19  Peggy’s Skylight (Nottingham)

Sun, Mar 20  The Oval Tavern (Croydon)

Sat, Mar 26, 2022 Norwich Jazz Club

 Tue, Mar 29 Eastside Jazz Club, Birmingham

Thu, Jul 14 Pizza Express (Soho, London)

Fri, Nov 4 Sheffield Jazz

Allen is also currently touring with the Kyle Eastwood Band and with QCBA with Omar. Check out for details of all live dates.









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