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Listening Room, Ep. 01: John Allred

John Allred, trombone

John Sheridan, piano

Tony DeNicola, drums

Andy Cleyndert, bass

AppleJazz Records, 2005

Over the history of jazz trombone there have been countless masters, each paving the way for the next generation. The 20th century trombone saw the kind of growth in technique and repertoire that the violin went through centuries ago when Paganini forever changed what was possible on the instrument. Tricky Sam Nanton's plunger, Urbie Green's unending discography and legendary sound, Lloyd Ulyate's revolutionary overdub album, JJ Johnson's bebop, and Marshall Gilkes' trailblazing approach to range have all led trombonists world-wide to reconsider what is possible on trombone.

John Allred's unmistakable sound, technique and phrasing put him amongst the highest caliber of trombonists. Years ago I was in a jazz club in Hell's Kitchen, NYC listening to The Tim Ouimette Big Band and the trombone player absolutely blew me away. I called a friend , held up my phone and and a la Back To The Future asked, "Is this the guy you were talking about?!" He'd had the same experience listening to John months before.

During our Covid quarantine my wife and I challenged each other to play a different CD every day. The Emerson String Quartet followed RUSH, Mahler, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Bruno Mars, and Coltrane followed A Tribe Called Quest. One day my wife noticed that we'd been playing John Allred's Live In Scotland almost nonstop for weeks.

She calls John the "David Oistrakh of trombone." John's resonance, pitch, sound and phrasing are all at such a high level that your whole body relaxes. He supersedes the technical challenges of the trombone and all that's left to do is listen. Supersede is putting it lightly - if I hadn't heard the fluidity, range, lyricism, and compositional mastery in the improvisations I'd say it was impossible. As a violinist Erin doesn't hear the technical aspect of it, she just hears how wonderfully joyful and musical his playing is. Side note from Erin: "The only time I have ever seen an entire violin section turn around and gape at a trombone solo was during a recording session when John Allred was playing. I remember thinking, "Why.... HOW is that so good???"

I've had the pleasure of playing with John on several occasions, and in totally different musical settings. Big bands, trombone bands, Broadway, recording sessions, and my first band in NYC "The Astoria Trombones." On more than one occasion when John is soloing I've seen people literally stop playing to stare with their mouths open.

What an achievement it is to be at the top of your craft, and to create such inspirational music.

- Nate Mayland


(L-R) Nathan Childers, Kenny Lavender, Salme Dahlstrom, Nate Mayland, John Allred



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