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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Rhythm on the River

Challenge CR 73311



1. Riverboat Shuffle
2. Cry Me a River
3. Rhythm on the River
4. Lazy River
5. Roll On, Mississippi, Roll On
6. Down by the River
7. Walking by the River
8. River, Stay 'way from My Door
9. Blue River
10. Weary River
11. Old Folks at Home (Swanee River)
12. Ready for the River
13. Sleepy River

Harry Allen - Tenor sax
Rossano Sportiello - Piano
Joel Forbes - Bass
Chuck Riggs - Drums
Warren Vaché- Cornet (tracks 1, 4, 8, 11)


In former days we might have ca lled this a "concept album", as it has a theme, which you can deduce from the song titles. Harry Allen goes all riparian with 13 tunes concerning rivers - a suitable theme, as his tenor sax style flows as smoothly as a gliding stream. He used to sound very like Stan Getz but now he seems to have developed a lower, sometimes gruff, tone - close to Ben Webster. The Webster influence is heard in the forcefulness of Roll On, Mississippi, Roll On and Harry emulates Ben's breathy sound in Down by the River. Harry's gently lyrical side is exemplified in Weary River.

Like his fellow mainstream tenorist, Scott Hamilton, Harry is happy to play the old songs, and his choice here is neatly balanced between well-known standards and less familiar tunes. Most people will know Hoagy Carmichael's two "river" songs - Riverboat Shuffle and Lazy River - but did you know Rhythm on the River (a 1940 song by James V. Monaco, composer of You Made Me Love You and If I Had My Way) or Down by the River (a neglected Rodgers & Hart song performed by Bing Crosby in the 1935 film Mississippi)? Harry and his guest Warren Vaché even tackle Stephen Foster's Old Folks at Home ("Way down upon the Swanee River"), although they don't dare to improvise on it: they simply share the melody between them.

The frontmen are well served by the rhythm section, comprising Rossano Sportiello (who has certainly put behind him the restricting title of "stride pianist"), bassist Joel Forbes (who solos lucidly on Lazy River and Ready for the River) and Chuck Riggs, who supplies some good eight- and four-bar drum breaks. Every solo by Sportiello is elegant and shapely.

The concept of songs about rivers might have proved to be corny but here it simply provides a useful foundation for 13 excellent performances by five excellent musicians.

Tony Augarde

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