These days, when a new player
bursts on the scene with a major label debut, the player is usually fresh out
of music school and perhaps not all that versed in a variety of musics or
working situations-the kind of experiences that season an artist.
Eric Allison is
definitely an exception to that rule. While he's armed with both his bachelor's
and master's in music, he's been a working pro for over 30 years. Allison lives
in the music-rich Miami, Florida area and plays all the standard
woodwinds-saxophones, clarinet, and flute-with authority and authenticity in
such styles as mainstream, bebop, funk jazz, New Orleans Second Line, swing,
and Dixieland. He may not give the word versatility new meaning, but he comes
Beat, Allison's debut for Contemporary Records (part of the Fantasy
Records family), served as an excellent introduction to his talents: working
with several ensembles-comprising such top talent as pianist/organist Dr.
Lonnie Smith, saxman Turk Mauro, and bassist Phil Flanigan-Allison offered up
ten lively mainstream jazz originals replete with melody, invention, and
vitality. "His main calling seems to involve making a stomping, effervescent
swing," commented one reviewer, "
[and] a superb cooking feel."
Allison's exemplary followup, is a concept album that sprang from the
suggestion by executive producer Bob Weinstock that he include an updated
arrangement of Avery Parrish's "After Hours," which was a huge hit for the
Erskine Hawkins Orchestra in the 1940s. Allison then "wrote like a maniac for a
couple of months," producing nine new compositions heard on After Hours. The CD
reached #20 on the Gavin Report for national radio airplay (jazz format) in
1998, and stayed on the chart for 13 weeks.
Weinstock, renowned as the
founder of Prestige Records, said he had decided to launch Allison because "I
was so impressed with him. This guy has his roots in mainstream jazz and he's a
Born March 7, 1951 in South
Bend, Indiana, Eric Allison at first had little regard for records his father
played: big band music of Count Basie and Stan Kenton, traditional jazz from
Louis Armstrong and Bob Crosby. But when he was in junior high school in
Sarasota, Florida, Eric says, "I got hit by the jazz virus, never to be cured."
Soon, he was listening to early jazz recordings by brassman Armstrong,
clarinetist Irving Fazola, and tenor saxophonist Eddie Miller. "Instead of
buying the newest music, I wanted to know where jazz came from," he says.
Allison took up alto sax in
junior high, and was mostly self-taught. Then, while in high school, he
discovered the music of bop giant alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, who became
Allison's idol. Serious saxophone studying waited until Allison entered
Northwestern University near Chicago. There, he came under the tutelage of
legendary saxophonist Fred Hemke. Allison also studied jazz with Joe Daley, a
great tenor saxophonist from Chicago.
After graduating from
Northwestern with a bachelor's degree in Music Education, Allison returned to
Florida, and entered the jazz studies program at the University of Miami, where
he earned a master's degree in Jazz Pedagogy in 1975. Since that time he has
been a leading performer in the top jazz clubs and concert venues in South
Florida, and has worked with a virtual litany of jazz greats both past and
present, including Zoot Sims, Ira Sullivan, Paquito d'Rivera, Richie Cole,
Scott Hamilton, Curtis Fuller, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Nat Adderly and Buddy
Allison's talents as an
arranger and performer for other artists' concert and recording projects are in
great demand. In addition, he leads a variety of different bands for corporate
events (IBM, General Electric, Pepsi-Cola), institutional functions (University
of Miami, Orange Bowl Committee, Miami Dolphins), and private parties. These
include the Wonderland Swing Band, a horn-heavy group performing the repertoire
of both the big bands and the 'jump' tunes so popular in the recent Neo-Swing
revival; and a Dixieland band playing authentic New Orleans jazz. A recognized
expert in the evolution of jazz, Allison has taught jazz history at the
University of Miami.
In 2000, Eric married
well-known Canadian jazz singer
Cheryl Fisher. The two
work extensively together and now divide their time between the United States
and Canada. Eric's recent appearances have included the Montreal Jazz Festival,
the Blue Note in New York City, the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, the Floating
Jazz Festival aboard the S/S Norway and S/S Masdam, the Jacksonville Jazz
Festival, the JAM Festival in Indianapolis, the TD and C-Jazz
Festivals in Calgary, the Jazz City International Festival in Edmonton, the
Florida Philharmonic under the direction of Peter Nero, soloist with the new
Gene Krupa Orchestra, and the Montreal Bistro in Toronto. Beginning in 2005 he
has toured Japan and Korea annually with pianist Eddie Higgins, and since 2007
has been the Music Director of the Gold Coast Jazz Society Band.
As a busy, committed working
musician, skilled jazz composer, and innovative recording artist, Eric Allison
is bringing his talents to the world at largeto the pleasure, no doubt,
of an ever-widening audience.
December, 1997, updated March, 2009