PERSONNEL: Tony Allen, vocals, cabasa; Joe Ronan, drums; George Jalbert, piano and keyboards; John Mills, alto and tenor saxophone; Russ Elliott, bass.

LABEL: Independent

YEAR: 2005

Tom Brokaw describes the subjects of his latest book, The Greatest Generation as enjoying tremendous popularity. And there’s a “best-kept secret” swing album that one could consider a tribute to that generation. And the enduring popularity of their music.

Tony Allen (a.k.a. Tony “Hooks” DeDominicus) has been singing for 50 years. Amazingly, at 76, his breezy, delightful timbre which at once evokes Como, Torme and Cole is timeless. Music’s been good to him; now he’s giving back. He describes his appearances at senior residences and the like with great frequency, beside his busy club appearance schedule, “as a way to make people happy.”

Everyone of a certain age has a “Front Street.” Some called it "Main Street." Some called it "the neighborhood." The ability to identify, musically, with the feeling (not to mention the nice, bouncy arrangement and talented musicians) is nostalgic without being sugarcoated. I Remember Front Street begins with a tune that swings with that traditional style — it’s a new tune dressed-up as a swingin’ Standard — and it works! Eleven other standards follow in swinging jazz style. Nothing stale about the arrangements, either. This sentence sounds corny but dancers from 18 to 88 will be lured to the floor by an up-tempo “Love Letters” with a wee bit of Latin flavor, “I Remember You,” the hard-swinging “I Wish I Were In Love Again” and another Latin-styled Standard “Again.” This is thanks to Ronan's innovative timekeeping and the simplicity and talent of keyboardist Jalbert. Jalbert, notably, utilizes the synthesizer sparingly when adding strings; to great effect. In fact, "Again" is one of the highlights of the album. Crooner Allen gives this old chestnut a seemingly effortless, wonderfully genuine delivery that's catchy and infectious.

“P.S., I Love You,” “Two Sleepy People,” and “I Remember You” are classic WWII songs that make time with a loved one oh so romantic with unobtrusive but jazzy arrangements. Dancing becomes secondary when listening to Allen and team turn each melody into, after all these years together, a harmonic stylization. The restrained use of saxophonist Mills’ decidedly jazzy solos is just perfect.

This opus started as a self-published bagatelle (Tony Allen’s sixth) for local distribution. The tunes are now being heard on Dick Robinson’s nationally-syndicated radio show; and other radio programs as well. The record I Remember Front Street is now available at www.cdbaby.com. You can also order by emailing orders@asianfusion.net.

Brokaw’s book celebrates the “Greatest Generation” in words. I Remember Front Street celebrates them in music. The popularity of the book is a harbinger of the nation’s tremendous interest to celebrating this generation. Gold couldn’t be far around the corner for this album in that case. (The album just needs to be sold to a major label.) The sublime way it embraces the music of that generation in a contemporary style that doesn’t get old is a sure bet to please swingers of all generations.

Note: No review of this recording would be complete without saying that this was the last recording made by the late Russ Elliott, known to all as an extremely kind-hearted, self-effacing man who is missed sorely by many.

Track listing:

  1. I Remember Front Street
  2. From Here to Eternity
  3. Love Letters
  4. P.S. I Love You
  5. Two Sleepy People
  6. I Remember You
  7. These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)
  8. When Your Lover Has Gone
  9. Don't Worry About Me
  10. I Wish I were In Love Again
  11. Again
  12. Thanks for the Memories

DISCLAIMER: the writer of this review is an associate producer of the album, however, he forfeited compensation for his efforts, by way of placing good music before profit. This review first appeared on www.allaboutjazz.com.

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