September Songs

Brian Allen

I’m just back from New York. I played Wednesday, September 6 at Barbes, in Brooklyn with my trio: Tony Malaby (tenor saxophone) and Gerald Cleaver (drums.) Clocking in at nearly an hour, it was a blistering set of continuous improvised music. Barbes is one of the finest clubs around in NY presenting modern jazz and improvised music. We got a cool preview notice in the New York Times (see below). I also played in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Saturday, September 10, with Nate Wooley (trumpet) and Harris Eisenstadt (percussion). While the instrumentation was similar to my trio from Barbes and it was also improvised, the music was completely different, focusing more on texture, space, varied dynamics, while the Barbes set was a visceral punch in the face with prolonged intensity, energy, physicality, and sweat. The venue also affects the music as well, as the Williamsburg room, Houndstooth, is smaller and more intimate and probably more experimental and electronic artists perform there. A third gig on Sunday night with my trio at Jimmy’s in Manhattan was canceled a few weeks before my trip.

Usually, my trips to New York have me playing sessions and checking out concerts all day and night, with extra time spent navigating the subways with mixed success. This time, I made a priority to enjoy a wider cultural variety of things equally inspiring, like the US Open, Central Park, great food, and several of the beautiful old churches that seem to be around every corner. I make it a point to visit the Guggenheim everytime I’m there. It feels like home, and there is always something that turns my head around, in addition to the running Kandinsky exhibition. This time it was the architect Zaha Hadid’s work. When I walked in, a fellow remarked to me, “I see you’re bringing your trombone to the Guggenheim. My cousin is Bruce Fowler! New Yorkers know how to take in a movie. I saw Woody Allen’s Scoop at the Lincoln Center Plaza and what a great, fun and appreciative crowd it was. I saw another independent movie This Film Has Not Yet Been Rated, dealing with the controversial ratings board, at the International Film Center. These theaters are pretty small, and there’s a sense of reverence, almost church-like, for the experience.

I continue to travel to New York many times a year. I have many friends there and playing associations. I always feel a sense of community there and part of a family of like-minded musicians. I look forward to the next time. There is always something amazing happening in that town.

Mr. Allen, an adventurous trombonist, has a new album called “Synapse” (Braintone) featuring the tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby and the drummer Tom Rainey. Their mode of expression is ruggedly free-form, but with a high degree of collective sensitivity. At 10 p.m., Barbès, 376 Ninth Street, at Sixth Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn, (718) 965-9177,; cover, $8. (Chinen)