"Harry Allen's All Star New York Saxophone Band" Raises the Roof at TCA
Barry Thomson, photographer
It was a night to remember.
On Saturday, October 21, Harry Allen’s All Star New York Saxophone Band blew the house down at Toronto Centre for the Arts’ Studio Theatre. From jazz students to jazz seniors, the group held the audience transfixed for over two hours.
The group consisted of Harry Allen, Vincent Herring, Grant Stewart and Gary Smulyan on sax, plus rhythm section of Ehud Asherie on piano, Kevin Kanner on drums and Joel Forbes on bass.
From standards to Harry’s own compositions, the band came together like a well-oiled machine, going from one full harmonious sound to far-out improvisation from each player, finally bringing the music back to finish with an exciting flourish.
After the performance all the band members came to the lobby to sign CDs and talk to the audience. Among others, the band’s latest CD, The Candy Men was a big hit.
Harry Allen Workshop Overflows with Saxophonists and SoundThe day started off with a JPEC sponsored Harry Allen saxophone workshop at 10 a.m.
Long and McQuade, Toronto’s first name in music, took care of space and coordination of the event. With overflowing capacity, the workshop was attended by professional saxophones players and novices alike. The questions were thoughtful and were answered with real information on how to get more out of their instruments.
To allow the audience to meet him personally, Harry stayed on to give personal advice including to this budding saxophonist in the audience.
Harry’s easy-going manner and his useful tips warmed the audience immediately. He told the audience that he started his music career on the accordion which gave him a basic knowledge of chords. His father was a big influence and they played together, his father on the drums and Harry on the accordion. Being blessed with perfect pitch gave him an advantage, he said. "Not everyone has it so they have to learn everything from scratch. It’s harder for them."
Asked what his favourite players are, Harry’s immediate response was Ben Webster, followed by Stan Getz and Paul Gonsolves.
One workshop participant wanted to know about improvisation; how it works and how to achieve it - a question many musicians wonder about. It seems so easy for some and yet, completely foreign for others.
Harry's answer was that improvisation isn’t just doing what you want any time. “Improvisation is about making sure you can always find a way to lead back to where you want to go,” he said. "Think about it in advance…so you can get back to where you started."
At Harry's request for saxophonists to come forward, Shannon Chapman, who works at Long and McQuade, came forward and together Shannon and Harry played 'There will never be another you'. Immediately moving in with harmonies and crossovers, it was clear that Shannon had a special talent and won a huge round of applause from the audience.