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08 May 2014

Faculty Jazz Collective CD Review

by Kerilie McDowall | Rhythm’a’ning-CHLY 101.7 FM

It is no secret that Canadian tenor saxophonist and composer Mike Allen has been prolific in recent years releasing two impressive album projects both in 2012 and also 2014 with his popular Vancouver band. The double releases have resulted in three recent quartet albums and even a duo 2014 release on soprano with pianist Miles Black.

The album Faculty Jazz Collective shows great band interaction with the praiseworthy intuitive communication and interplay from one of the busiest jazz quartets in the Pacific Northwest. On this release, the Mike Allen Quartet is superbly enjoyable to listen to as always, with an album that reflects the innovative instructional work of Mike Allen and his quartet’s teaching on faculty at Western Washington University as the in house working/teaching band. Acclaimed Canadian saxophonist Mike Allen is the Director of Jazz Studies at Western Washington University where he works with talented young up and coming jazz musicians embarking on their professional careers. This 2012 recording is a project of the quartet as faculty members at WWU.

The opening fun track “Move Over Blues” from talented pianist, guitarist and composer Miles Black, features saxophonist powerhouse Mike Allen and his band for an uplifting and positive moment. Gifted bassist and vocalist Adam Thomas treats us to some passionate vocal performances on “Lonely Avenue”, “Under A Moonlit Sky, “The Night We Called It A Day” and “Everything Happens To Me”. With drummer extraordinaire and long time quartet member American Julian McDonough in the drum chair, the quartet and Thomas get a perfect feel going and you will be impressed with bassist/vocalist Thomas’ heartfelt approach.

Saxophonist and bandleader Allen is a creative composer of songs and his compositions ”Klondike” and “Mia Culpa” reflect the exemplary strength of his writing and melodic interpretation. Allen’s writing offers up thoughtful musical reflection with adventurous exploration and expressive intensity on the saxophone, while the band responds with a sublime flow of interactive musical conversation.

An especially favourite track to watch out for is the Mike Allen Quartet’s exquisite arrangement and performance of John Coltrane’s “India”. When Allen alludes to and interprets Coltrane on this track, the moment is magical.

The honest approach and Allen’s spirit and impassioned sound come through powerfully on Faculty Jazz Collective with much soul from saxophonist Allen and his quartet. I suggest buying both of the Mike Allen Quartet releases from 2012 to sample the fuller range and scope of the band’s work. The Mike Allen Quartet’s Faculty Jazz Collective is once again another fine MAQ recording of some beautifully impressive west coast jazz.