Steve Allee CD Release Concert at the Jazz Factory

By Martin Kasdan Jr

Pianist Steve Allee has long been a mainstay of the Indianapolis jazz scene and he brought his trio to the Jazz Factory for two nights to celebrate the release of his new CD, Colors (SA-0107). Accompanying Allee were bassist Bill Moring and drummer Tim Horner. As on the disc, the performance mixed Allee originals with classics from the mainstream jazz canon. Allee frequently introduced songs in such a way as to enhance the listeners' perception of the meaning behind the music. For example, during the first set, he noted that "Trees" [from the new CD] was "inspired by country living - the trees started talking to me." It had, as he mentioned, a "folk-type" melody; the song began with a laid-back piano introduction, after which Allee's playing became more intense as bassist Moring joined him, followed by drummer Horner. Two standards followed, Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere," which provided Horner a chance to demonstrate his impressive and expressive brushwork and Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays," during which he alternated deftly between brushes and sticks. The first set closed with another Allee original from the new CD, "Lucaya," which he said was inspired by "rain forests, turquoise waters and the people, an impressionistic piece." He opened the second set with "Bubbles," which maintained a groove reminiscent of Eddie Harris' "Cold Duck Time." Thelonious Monk's "I Mean You" was next, with Horner's almost second line rhythms providing a different feel for this modern jazz classic; the musicians were beaming at one another by the song's conclusion. Most of this set was also comprised of standards. "The Very Thought of You," "If I Were a Bell," and Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" (featuring an arco solo by Moring) showed how Allee and company could take familiar tunes and keep them fresh. The Allee original "Thad" (for Thad Jones) employed a stop-time theme, while Cedar Walton's lesser-known "Cedar's Blues" employed a melody line that straddled the sometimes arbitrary lines between blues and jazz. The trio close with a fast waltz, "Pure Spirit," also the closing song of the new disc.