In his heyday in the 1930s Allen was a trumpeter of great
significance. More than any other “hot” jazz trumpeter before him he employed
the use of long, flowing melodic lines. His sense of continuity had much in
common with the style of Harry “Sweets” Edison who employed the same technique a
few years later with
Henry Red Allen made his first recordings with Clarence Johnson
while on tour with the struggling King Oliver Dixie Syncopators in 1927. Like
many jazz players from Louisiana during this period; Henry Allen then spent time
playing on riverboats traveling the Mississippi. He made several recordings
under his own name in 1929 for Victor and then joined the Luis Russel Orchestra.
Allen worked with the great tenor soloist Coleman Hawkins while in the Fletcher
Henderson big band in 1933 and 1934 and many of his improvised solos were
written in as part of arrangements by Henderson.
In 1934 and 1935 Red Allen made a number of recordings which
were issued under his own name on the Vocalion, Parlophone, and Banner labels.
His solos on sides like Truckin'
and Down South Camp Meeting
are among his finest on record. Allen was also a member of a
swinging studio all-star type band organized by songwriter, publisher and
booking agent Irving Mills. He recorded with the Mills Blue Rhythm Band from
1934 to 1936 which waxed some fantastic sides on Columbia and its subsidiary
Henry Red Allen was establishing himself as a premier soloist
of the early swing period with many of the recordings done in the aforementioned
settings in the early and mid 1930s. But in 1937 he rejoined the Luis Russel big
band which was, by this time, being fronted by
Louis Armstrong. Allen
was relegated to merely a brass section man in this outfit, taking a back seat
to the great Satchmo, until the group disbanded in 1940.
Henry Red Allen then reinvented himself forming a sextet of
his own which achieved great popularity in New York at clubs like
Kelly’s Stable and
Café Society. This group, with
occasional personnel changes, remained together until the early 1950’s. His
trumpet and vocals can be heard on swinging jazz and quasi R&B sides from the
mid 1940s such as “Get The Mop,”
“The Theme,” and “Ride
From April of 1954 Allen was a member of a Dixieland style
house band at the Metropole
in NYC. In 1957 he was seen in the film “The Sound
Of Jazz” and in the fall of 1959 he toured Europe
as a sideman with Kid Ory.
In the early sixties Red continued to play at the Metropole
and other NYC jazz clubs and made occasional trips to Boston and Chicago.
Between September of 1961 and March of 1963 the Red Allen Quartet was recorded
live three times at the London House in Chicago.
Henry Red Allen continued to stay active in the mid 1960s but
was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer late in 1966. Nevertheless he embarked on a
tour of Great Britain returning back to the U.S. just six weeks before his death
on April 17th, 1967.
Recommended recordings include several of his recordings with
Fletcher Henderson including “Down South Camp
Meeting,” “Hocus Pocus,”
and “Wrappin’ It Up.”
A number of recordings under his own name are also noteworthy including
and “Rug Cutter’s Swing”
from 1935 and 1934 respectively. Some of his mid 1940s sides are also enjoyable
including the aforementioned “Get The Mop,”
“Ride Red Ride,” and “The
Theme.” As with any of the sides we single out you
will find them to have a smooth, flowing, steady rhythm.