‘…a saxophone heavyweight, at the height of his powers…’
Blues and Soul Magazine
‘Muscular and robust one moment, warm and soothing another, stretching out with an abrasive edge’
'Brandon Allen is arguably the most exciting tenor player in Britain today. His phrasing is unashamedly emotional, soaked in the blues tradition.'
'His four-octave range and flawless command of the altissimo register was nicely offset by his full-bodied yet raucous tonal quality offering something for fans of the entire history of the instrument- from Hawkins to Brecker- he's got em covered.'
London Jazz News
2015 Highgate Jazz with Soul Festival roundup: Mark McKergow (London Jazz News)
Brandon Allen Sextet at Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club 16th February, 2013.
Saturday nights at this club used to be the exclusive preserve of US superstars so it was with a jolt of patriotic pride that the management saw five Brits and one displaced Antipodean create a similar thrill on this famous bandstand. And make no mistake, theirs was a world-class performance.
For swing, invention and stunning instrumental technique, trombonist Mark Nightingale, altoist Nigel Hitchcock and Aussie tenorist Allen completed a front line that Art Blakey would have branded “the baddest cats in town”. Likewise, pianist Ross Stanley, bassist Sam Burgess and drummer Ian Thomas. Nightingale was amazing. His slide-trombone lines were executed more cleanly and speedily than most trumpeters could manage, and Hitchcock’s range and fluency were phenomenal.
My solitary gripe concerned their poor microphone balance, which took a while to correct. When will engineers realise that afternoon sound-checks in empty clubs are a complete waste of time? And for such hypermodern players it was surprising to find such ancient material in their book. Stardust, Limehouse Blues and even Duke Ellington’s Black and Tan Fantasy were all dusted down but then as Duke used to say, it’s not whatcha play but the way thatcha play it.
- Jack Massarik (The Evening Standard) ****
Review by Dave Gelly (The Observer) - 1st May 2011
Trumpet, tenor saxophone, organ and drums? Must be retro hard-bop in the classic Blue Note mould. Er, not exactly. Collins certainly plays bright, crackling trumpet and Allen's tenor is declamatory in the grand manner, but there's a restlessness about this band's music that defies expectations. Instead of grooving comfortably along, the drums (Enzo Zirilli) chatter away busily and the organ (Ross Stanley) produces sudden changes of register and great washes of harmonic colour. The compositions, Collins's especially, keep you guessing, too. It's disconcerting but wonderfully energising, once you get over the surprise.
The Quentin Collins/Brandon Allen Quartet - What's It Gonna Be?
(Sunlightsquare Records SUNCD010, CD Review by Chris Parker)
From its hard-driving opener (tenor player Brandon Allen's What's It Gonna Be? to its infectiously lively closer (drummer Enzo Zirilli's mix of 'Tea for Two' with an almost 'Sidewinder'-ish shuffle rhythm, 'Teeth for Tooth'), this album harks back to the heyday of hard bop, recalling not only the Lee Morgan or Freddie Hubbard albums so beloved of co-leader, trumpeter Quentin Collins, but also (courtesy of Ross Stanley's evocative organ sound) the classic albums of Jimmy Smith and his ilk.
All its tracks except a radio-friendly visit to Stevie Wonder's 'Smile Please', sung by Natalie Williams, are in-band originals intelligently programmed to move between bustling swagger and moody slower pieces, but whether they're rattling through the former or brooding through the latter, the quartet has a breezy vigour and an unfussy interactive ease that can't fail to impress.
Collins is a refreshingly straightforward player, blazing and flaring on open trumpet, subtly noodling through a mute, or crooning through his flugelhorn as appropriate; Allen is a perfect frontline partner, his rich, powerful sound enabling him to steam through up-tempo numbers and channel tenderness through quieter ones; the rhythm section (buoyed by Stanley's deft bass pedals and sparked by Zirilli's crisply assertive drumming) bristles with disciplined authority – overall, this is an unequivocally enjoyable, immediately accessible but consistently musicianly album.
THE QUENTIN COLLINS/BRANDON ALLEN QUARTET
What's It Gonna Be?
This talented quartet get the full five stars, not only for performing brilliantly here but also for playing the type of jazz few can master - namely bright, tuneful neo-bop originals that swing from start to finish. Confident and cosmopolitan, Aussie tenorman Allen, Italian drummer Enzo Zirilli and two Brits, trumpeter Collins and Hammond organist Ross Stanley, make guest trombonist Trevor Mires and singer Natalie Williams feel completely at home. The co-leaders evoke their Blue Note heroes - Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Hank Mobley, Sonny Rollins - without copying a single lick, and the rhythm section is as tight as Sir Alex Ferguson's lips whenever Ryan Giggs is mentioned.
- JACK MASSARIK
The Evening Standard
Interesting melodies and well-crafted solos over a swinging organ-and-drums rhythm section quickly warmed up the Hideaway audience on a chilly winter evening last Friday. Trumpeter Quentin Collins and tenor saxophonist Brandon Allen share inspiration in the glory days of hard bop and the music of Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley and its other great proponents but, while they bring its values to their own quartet, this is no mere tribute band. Their music is all original and their two opening numbers, the title track of their current album ‘What’s It Gonna Be?’ and ‘No Way José’ highlighted the writing talents of both co-leaders. Each of their songs has a distinctive character, often long-form and gradually unfolding with several sections and interludes between solos, punctuated with effective rhythmic kicks. Both pace their solos well, maintaining the audience’s attention with skilfully developed ideas and a sense of form. The virtuosity is there but never overstated. Drummer Enzo Zirilli plays a key role in all this, supporting and prodding, always swinging. Mike Gorman, substituting on organ for Ross Stanley, more than rose to this challenge with swinging bass lines and chords and several fine solos.
Guesting with the quartet in their second set was acoustic guitar master Antonio Forcione. His music is a far remove from hard bop, with influences ranging from flamenco to Balkan and from Arabic to American acoustic guitar styles, but he is thoroughly conversant with the jazz language. Opening with his dramatic ‘Africa’ and concluding with his joyful ‘Maurizio’s Party’, the contrasting character of this set rounded off an excellent evening of creative music.
– Charles Alexander