13 June 2013

Change Is CD Review

by David Franklin | Cadence Magazine

Sonny Rollins proved that tenor/bass/drums trio would work and Canadian tenorist Mike Allen’s Change Is, is yet one more verification of its effectiveness. Indeed, Allen’s own style owes a debt to 1950’s Rollins, although Allen’s tone lacks Rollins’ huskiness and his playing doesn’t quite reach Rollins’ intensity level. Instead, in this mix of standards and originals, ranging from quiet ballads to exhilarating up-tunes, the tenorist demonstrates a big but smooth sound throughout the range of his horn and generally approaches the material in a comparatively subdued manner. Drummer Dave Robbins’ frequent use of his brushes serves to reinforce the calm ambiance. A notable exception, however, is Robbins’ own “At the Mark” on which he brings out the sticks and sets the leader up for his most impassioned work on the album.

Through thoughtful interaction of the three instruments, including the frequent use of Darren Radtke’s bass as a second melodic voice, the ensemble keeps the music interesting, thereby avoiding the most common pitfall associated with groups lacking a chordal instrument. And it helps that Allen’s improvisations swing effortlessly and eschew stock cliches in favor of more inventive phraseology. Drummer Robbins keeps solid time and whether using sticks or brushes, makes his own contribution to the rhythmic interest of the proceedings.