Ben Allison Band
Green Mill; Sat 13
It’s hard to miss the meta data filling your Web browser’s title bar when visiting Ben Allison’s website. It screams, in all caps, “JAZZ ROCK FILM MUSIC FROM NEW YORK.” The unambiguous description tidily sums up the bassist-composer’s range of skills, as well as his most recent album, Think Free.
The latest in a string of groups led by the 43-year-old, the Ben Allison Band works almost exclusively in moody grooves on last year’s Think Free. Far from the avant-garde heroics its title suggests, this is a modest collection of taut tunes that rarely leave the pocket. Despite the ultratight arrangements, there’s a warm, understated calm to the proceedings and an introspective grace that promises not to blow you away with showy licks or one-upmanship.
Though Allison’s band fits tidily within the tradition, it’s far from a typical jazz combo. The group seldom swings, instead favoring straight time almost exclusively. Trumpeter Shane Endsley’s reserved tones melt away, and the moan of Jenny Scheinman’s swooning violin adds a haunting, atmospheric quality echoed by guitarist Steve Cardenas, a longtime foil of the bassist-bandleader.
Allison anchors it all with class and generous restraint, prodded along by drummer Rudy Royston on the measured pulse of “Kramer vs. Kramer vs. Godzilla” or the syncopated chirp of the autumnal odd-time workout “Platypus.” Nevertheless, it’s Scheinman’s brilliant bowing and unpredictable, skittering textures that really light up this lineup. Expect a well-oiled machine this evening; tonight’s show caps a ten-day run.