Harry Allen & Joe Cohn | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Harry Allen & Joe Cohn 

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When most people hear tenor saxist Harry Allen, they immediately think of Stan Getz--as well they should. Though Allen wasn't yet born when Getz released his hugely popular early-60s bossa nova albums, he revels in the cool, hard tone and heated swing that first made Getz famous in the 40s; on ballads in particular Allen nails Getz's throaty, questing upper register like William Tell at ten paces. But Allen owes just as much to Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, Getz's colleagues in the "Four Brothers" saxophone section that fronted the spectacular Woody Herman band of the late 1940s. Cohn and Sims shared certain characteristics with Getz--a timbral debt to Lester Young, as well as a prebop rhythmic feel coupled with bop's complex harmonies--but each cultivated strengths all his own; Allen has clearly paid special attention to the airy perfection of Sims's swing (which Getz himself admired) and to Cohn's marvelously inventive improvised melodies. Sims and Cohn (or Zoot and Al, as they were universally known) maintained a lengthy partnership after leaving Herman's band, leading quintets as a two-tenor team from 1956 until shortly before Sims's death in 1985. That legacy provides the subtext for these shows--billed as a tribute to Zoot and Al--and in fact Allen will be leading a quintet with Joe Cohn, Al's guitarist son, who recorded with his father en route to developing his smart, bustling, and often explosive style. The Chicago-based rhythm section will have no trouble rising to the occasion: it's led by Stu Katz, the city's last authentic bop pianist, who backed Zoot and Al almost every time they came to town. Tuesday through Thursday, July 24 through 26, 8 and 10 PM, Friday and Saturday, July 27 and 28, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, July 29, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Alan Nahigian.


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