Allan Vaché and Harry Allen
Allan and Allen
(Nagel-Heyer – 2001)
by John Barrett
If you like the old-fashioned swing, rejoice – these guys agree with you. The less-famous Vaché blows a fine clarinet: grainy, with hints of Woody Herman. He cries the theme to “Lover, Come Back to Me”, driven by a strong piano (Eddie Higgins, a mainstay of ‘Sixties Chicago.) After his turn comes Harry Allen, whose tone is like Lester but whose style is aggressive. (His solo begins like Ammons and ends like Lockjaw.) The two reeds keep trading, and neither relent – it’s a two-course meal, and both are delicious.
They coast through “Jive at Five”: Allan has a sweet tremble, accented by Higgins’ stride. This time Harry IS Pres – the likeness is uncanny, and gorgeous. “Lake Ponchartrain Blues” will grow on you; the theme and harmonies are subtly sophisticated. Higgins wrote it, and he glistens – Vaché defines “yearning” on his sweet solo. The drums wreak havoc on the title tune; this is Eddie Metz, and his drive is special. (Harry is also good, though his turn is too short.) Allan is peaceful on “What Can I Say (After I Say I’m Sorry)”, followed by Harry’s slow fire. Such music is simple: find the good tunes and let them sing. This they do, and this you’ll love.
Vaché tries his hand singing on “Straighten Up and Fly Right”: his voice is wrinkled like his brother’s, and just as hip. (It’s charming, but I’d rather hear his clarinet.) Allan cries his solo on “You Go to My Head” (he even does the glissando from “Rhapsody in Blue”!) while both reeds make a race of “Tickle Toe”. Harry sounds gorgeous, with the ferocity of Stitt; Vaché moves into Goodman country, with notes both fast and cool. The bass solo quotes “Topsy”, and Higgins has a solid comp. Harry does a good Webster on “Ben’s Blues”, drawls pretty on “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear from Me”, and joins Vaché for the rollicking “Stealin’ Apples”. This is a record where everyone has a good time … especially the listener.