All About Jazz

Phil Allen's Concert Jazz Band: North Greenbush Blues  

North Greenbush Blues marks the recorded debut of Indiana-born, New York State-based trombonist Phil Allen's glove-tight and remarkably robust Concert Jazz Band. The album has many pleasures, but what stands out most are Allen's impressive charts, which give the ensemble ample sustenance and reason to shine. Allen wrote six of the album's nine tunes and arranged every number including Dylan Canterbury's fast-moving "Speed Trap," Chris Pasin's melodious "Fragile Creature" and Gary McFarland's emotive "Why Are You Blue?" 

The twelve-member ensemble encompasses three trumpets, four saxophones, two trombones and rhythm. Allen and 
Tyler Giroux play valve trombone exclusively, while tenors Kevin Barcomband Nate Giroux alternated on the album's two recording dates, in June and July 2017. The rhythm, meanwhile, is in the capable hands of pianist Wayne Hawkins, bassist Lou Smaldoneand drummer Michael Benedict. The CJB saunters from the starting gate with the sharply-grooved title theme, named for the town to which Allen and his wife Barbara relocated after moving from Colorado in 2014. Baritone saxophonist Scott Hall is the first among a number of engaging soloists to arrive, followed on the "Blues" by alto Dave Fisk and pianist Hawkins. 


Canterbury's aptly named "Speed Trap" is one of the album's trio of "burners," the others being Allen's "Georgia Grump" (a brisk workout for the trombones based on "Sweet Georgia Brown") and emphatic "Northbeach," which rings down the curtain. Soloists are Hawkins, Barcomb and Canterbury on "Speed Trap," Allen and Tyler Giroux on "Georgia Grump," and Hawkins, trumpeter Steve Lambert and alto Dave Fisk on "Northbeach." Allen's "Winter Birds" is a lovely medium-tempo theme with tasteful solos by Lambert and Nate Giroux, "Sodwanna Bay" a lustrous waltz showcasing Allen and Canterbury. Tyler Giroux and alto Lee Russo are front and center on "Why Are You Blue?," trumpeter Pasin on his own "Fragile Creature." Allen wrote the tender ballad "Barbara," on which he solos with Hawkins (on electric piano), for his wife. 

In sum, a generally impressive debut by Allen's Concert Jazz Band, which seems destined to move onward and upward as it advances toward maturity.

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

Personnel: Phil Allen/leader, valve trombone, Dave Fisk/Alto Sax, Lee Russo/Tenor - Soprano Sax, Flute, Nate Giroux/Tenor Sax, Kevin Barcomb/Tenor Sax, Scott Hall/Bari Sax, Dylan Canterbury/Trumpet - Flugel, Chris Pasin/Trumpet - Flugel, Steve Lambert/Trumpet - Flugel, Tyler Giroux/Valve Trombone, Wayne Hawkins/Piano - Fender Rhodes, Lou Smaldone/Bass, Mike Benedict/Drums

Schenectady Gazette

PEM Tiny Band debuted last Thursday at the Spring Street Gallery in Saratoga Springs, a cozy, impressionistic display of hypersensitivity honed through close mutual listening.

Phil Allen fingered staccato rushes or graceful, long-line melodies from his valve trombone over Ed Green’s pizzicato cello working like a bass and Mark Kleinhaut’s guitar; flat-picked in solos, mostly, finger-picked or palm-struck in support.

Songs formed from pure sound, abstract to specific, exploring together. Kleinhaut’s “Western Ways” felt country, through a Pat Metheny lens; Allen’s “Barbara” to his wife was pure love song; then “49,” a reverie about coastal Maine, went moody and mysterious as Allen conjured a foghorn and the melody faded into mist or emerged in sunny clarity.

They flew to Cuba in the second set and riffed through tunes of Gerry Mulligan, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. Noting the band had just started, Allen stressed how well the trio listens, making a rapid leap from brand-new to confidently accomplished by closing the gap from ears to brain to hands.

Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel

Albany Jazz Scene

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)

click here for audio samples or to purchase the CD

Click here to learn more about Phil Allen



North Greenbush Blues
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.