First male winner at the Sassys

Chicago singer G. Thomas Allen became the first male winner of top US jazz vocals competition the Sassys hosted by Christian McBride at the weekend. Allen according to reports impressed with his version of Erroll Garner's 'Misty,' a song firmly …

Published: 16 Nov 2021. Updated: 17 days.

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Chicago singer G. Thomas Allen became the first male winner of top US jazz vocals competition the Sassys hosted by Christian McBride at the weekend. Allen according to reports impressed with his version of Erroll Garner's 'Misty,' a song firmly in the repertoire of Sarah Vaughan who the awards are named after. Allen debuted last year with his self-titled album G. Thomas Allen and receives a $5,000 cash award. His voice is a gospel-and-blues soaked soaring high alto reminiscent a little of Jimmy Scott.

G. Thomas Allen, above. Photo via gthomasallenmusic.com

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Jacob Shulman, Connectedness, Endectomorph Music ****

Album as 10-part composition, dare I use the word ''suite''? It straddes Persian classical music, German romanticism and Japanese game music the label suggests (if I hadn't read that description none apart from the romanticism would have been …

Published: 16 Nov 2021. Updated: 17 days.

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Album as 10-part composition, dare I use the word ''suite''? It straddes Persian classical music, German romanticism and Japanese game music the label suggests (if I hadn't read that description none apart from the romanticism would have been obvious to my ears). New York-based tenor saxophonist Jacob Shulman originally from Los Angeles who on the side has programmed interactive computer music systems and taught maths, keeps musical company with pianist Hayoung Lyou, double bassist Simón Willson, and drummer Avery Logan. According to Endectomorph ''each song has a counterpart on the opposite half of the album except for the central composition and focal point 'Reflected off the Water.'''

Impressions? There are winningly naive themes that swim in uncomplicated waters early on flavoured by Shulman's raw and communicative timbre. 'Boiling' is where the mood gets more Sonny Rollins-like perhaps although there's no sense of calypso anywhere it's just the tone that explains why that struck me. Willson's bass is well-captured at the beginning of 'Indigo Conjunction' and this is the most interesting of the early tracks as the ideas start to multiply and there is more interplay with the rhythm section. I liked the conversation between Shulman and Logan at the beginning of 'Viridian Forest and the Night Sky' Logan coming across like Nate Smith and the rolling piano line on the track is a delight.

While skeletal overall (meaning perhaps a little too much space in the arrangement and I was dying for Hayoung Lyou to become more involved) it's a fine debut and one that continues to deliver surprises the further you listen. There's a grandeur in 'A Crack in the Ice' that displays Shulman's maturity and individuality as a writer. 'Long Line' has the firmest harmonic grasp and contains a salty bluesiness. The album was recorded at the Relic Room, New York, in March and was produced by Kevin Sun. Delve right in. SG

Jacob Shulman photo: Knar Hovakimyan