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Jazzman Shamarr Allen looking to be a ‘typical rock star’

15th August 2011   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer


It’s true that Shamarr Allen isn’t your “Typical Rock Star,” as the first cut on his new, numerically titled CD, 504-799-8147, declares. While the talented trumpet-playing New Orleans native could hardly be described as “typical” in the guitar-wielding world of rock, “rock star” is a status that Allen aspires to. That’s evident on much of the new album that follows his traditional jazz-filled 2008 release, Meet Me On Frenchmen Street, and 2009’s funk and rap-based Box Who In? It’s also apparent in his outlook.

“I’m trying to break into mainstream radio – that’s what I like,” says Allen with no apologies. “That’s what I listen to. I grew up listening to everything. I grew up listening to rock, I grew up listening to rap, I grew up listening to jazz and I studied all of it.”

This is not a one (rock) note album as it ventures into rap, contemporary rhythm and blues, pop, and a couple of tunes that might suggest a touch of reggae. The biggest difference on this disc is that Allen showcases himself more as prolific songwriter, punchy vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and producer than he does as the frontman blowing trumpet and singing.

“Whatever’s playing in my head, that’s what I give to the people,” Allen explains. “I like rapping, I like singing, I like getting people going and I like having a good time. People don’t download albums anymore, they download the songs that they like. If they like this song because it’s a rock song, great they’ll download it. If this person likes that song because it’s a rap song they’ll download that.”

Nonetheless, Allen wants to be known for his trumpet, wants to make a living and go national with it. On the disc, his horn takes on various roles and characteristics. Thanks to electronics, his trumpet often sounds like a stinging, wah-wahed out guitar or is put to use in the one-man horn section he created while recording the album at home. Interestingly, on the song “Mr. Old Man,” on which he speaks to veteran musicians who criticize his stray from jazz, he plays the most straight-up trumpet solo on the disc.

“I respect all of the older New Orleans musicians,” says Allen, whose lyrics proclaim them to be stuck in their ways. “So I thought, let me figure out a fun way to tell them to leave me alone right now and let me play with this for a little awhile without being disrespectful because I love them all and they taught me so much.”

When Shamarr Allen and the Underdawgs perform at the Louisiana Music Factory at 4 p.m. on Saturday, August 20, the leader will come armed only with his trumpet, leaving at home the other instruments he plays on the disc – trombone, keys, drum, bass and guitar. He’ll rely solely on his bandmembers – keyboardist Jason Butler, guitarist Matt Clark, drummer Nick Solnick, bassist William Terry and percussionist Herbert Stevens, who will also play trombone on the gig.

Butler co-wrote one of the softer tunes on the album, the contemporary rhythm and blues cut, “One Night Stand.” His fine keyboards open the song that features vocalist Alania. It has already proven itself radio friendly, gaining popularity on local stations like KMEZ 102.9 FM and B-97.

Most of the material coming from Allen’s sharp pen comes from his personal experience. When writing “Dangerous Love Affair,” he says he was thinking about one of his childhood friends who was a “real good girl” but got caught up with the “bad boys” with the “big cars.” Set to an almost reggae rhythm, the tune stands as an album highlight with Allen delivering expressive vocals, an appreciated trumpet solo and good “horn section” interjections.

“This is the life,” says Allen of this tune and others like “Bad Luck” and the closer “Out the Window.” “I’m not going to write stuff just because it sounds good.”

And true to life, you can actually reach Allen at (504) 799-8147, a rockin’ album from a New Orleans artist with a connection to past and future.

Rare Treat of Two Jazz Greats

“We’re just going to do what we do,” Kidd Jordan says of his Friday, August 19, date at Sweet Lorraine’s with drum legend Andrew Cyrille. “We’re just going to play.”

Jordan, a New Orleans treasure as a musician, educator and keeper of the creative jazz flame, may, in this case, be a man of few words but he’s always full of fresh and flowing ideas. An icon on the national and international avant garde jazz scene, he too rarely performs in his hometown. Making this appearance even more special is his pairing with another free jazz master, New York drummer Cyrille. He has ruled the genre for decades as a leader and playing with the likes of pianist Cecil Taylor, saxophonist David Murray and many more. Jordan and Cyrille, who stand as two like-minded musicians, have often worked together in New York at the noted Vision Festival, in Europe and even several times in New Orleans.

On board for the two shows at the St. Claude Avenue restaurant and jazz spot are long-time associates of Jordan – keyboardist Darrell Lavigne and bassists Elton Heron and Brian Quezergue. Jordan hopes to get his co-leader in the Improvisational Arts Quintet, drummer Alvin Fielder to get up for a few numbers too.

“I’ve been rolling pretty good,” Jordan says of his musical adventures this summer.

Love Sessions – A Festival of Giving

Eleven nights of music, eleven nights of giving is the aim of a series of musical benefit events that kicks off on Friday, August 19, at Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse. Much as they’ve done in the past, trumpeters Irvin Mayfield and Kermit Ruffins, armed with their respective bands, will go horn-to-horn in a face-off dubbed “The Thriller.” The sure to be fun-filled championship lasts for an incredible seven nights to benefit a different non-profit organization each evening. The philanthropic spirit continues next week with four-nights of great jazz with the Roy Hargrove Band meeting the Irvin Mayfield Band at Mayfield’s I Club. More on that match-up next week.

This article was originally published in the August 15, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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