The Indianapolis native, now an assistant professor of music at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, held a master class for jazz students at USF, then performed Monday night with the excellent USF Jazz Ensemble I, a big band directed by Chuck Owen, and a Faculty Jazz Ensemble.
Allee, a versatile performer who's been a member of bassist Rufus Reid's band for the past decade, has serious compositional chops. His originals are filled with sparkling musical imagery that evokes the visual delights of their inspirations.
The student band, with Allee at the Steinway, performed two of his compositions, the uptempo "Pure Spirit" and the more idyllic "Dragonfly." They also dug into "Thick and Thin," a composition by saxophonist Gary Campbell, an Indy native who teaches at Florida International University in Miami. The latter was an extended solo feature for tenor saxophonist Jack Wilkins, who directs the USF Jazz Studies Program.
Allee's deep solo piano exploration of Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight" was filled with teasing nuance before he dug into the full melody midway through, and then continued to explore variations built off its chordal structure. The Faculty Jazz Ensemble, buoyed by trumpeter James Suggs and alto saxophonist Jon Cestero, grad students who are section leaders in the student ensemble, closed out the evening with the pianist's "Arts Groove."
Full disclosure: This was my first time to meet and hear Allee in person. However, I talked at length with him by phone 10 years ago when I wrote the liner notes for his recording Dragonfly (Owl Studios). It's a splendid trio session with bassist Bill Moring and drummer Tim Horner, and I've been revisiting it a lot lately.
|Allee, Wilkins, Neuenschwander, Suggs, Cestero, Craig|