Houston-based trombonist and composer Brian Allen has become an increasingly active
force in contemporary creative music circles. Though still a disciple of players like Slide
Hampton and Curtis Fuller, Allen has nevertheless found very personal ways to break
down his slippery bop-honed trombone chops. He takes the instrument apart, removes
the mouthpiece to vocalize through the bare tubing, raps the mouthpiece against the bell,
and employs multiphonics – but there’s that polished jazz-trombone sound cutting
through all of the instrumental deviations.

Allen’s most recent work is collected on two New York-centric sets released on his
own Braintone label, one a duo with regular collaborator, bassist Reuben Radding, the
other a trio with tenorman Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey. The Allen-Radding
duo is an extended meditation on squawks, buzzing, whistles, blats and hums – you
wouldn’t be fazed if you were told it was a recording of Fluxus pipe music. Raddingâ
€™s muscular, dexterous bass playing is the axis on which Allen’s panoply of
unearthly chortles and gnat-like noises turns. Their duets stretch and arch, constructed
from lightning-fast responses and poetic churnings, and the results have a gravity that
keeps even the most outrageous moments from noisemaking whimsy.

When the Allen-Malaby-Rainey trio gigged in Austin recently, the wide-open acoustic
space and long, sinuous trombone and tenor lines suggested a latterday derivation of the
New York Art Quartet. Yet these bluesy harmonies are part of a more complex whole: on â
€œExpecade,â€� sound-sheet conversations hinting at the free-blues tradition are
followed (after one of Rainey’s salvos at the drums) by sparse dialogues between
buzzing, dribbling trombone vocalizations and breathy tenor. Backbeats surging out of
nowhere, spars of skittering melody, rising tenor waves stopped short by cymbal scrapes
and plaintive gulps – Synapse is a subtle upending of the tried-and-true.–CA
BRIAN ALLEN WITH TONY MALABY AND TOM RAINEY - SYNAPSE REVIEW
BRIAN ALLEN AND REUBEN RADDING - TROMBONE/CONTRABASS REVIEW

from
June 2006 Paris Transatlantic
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