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Red Allen

Henry "Red" Allen (1908 - 1967) was an influential jazz trumpeter.

Henry James Allen was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on January 7, 1908, the son of the noted bandleader Henry Allen. He took early trumpet lessons from Peter Bocage and Manuel Manetta; some of his lessons from Manetta were took together with another promising young trumpeter, Emmett Hardy.

Allen was playing professionally by 1924, playing with the Excelsior Brass Band and the jazz dance bands of Sam Morgan, George Lewis and John Casimir. After playing on riverboats on the Mississippi River, he went to New York City in 1927 to join King Oliver's band. At this time he also made recordings on the side in the band of Clarence Williams. After returning briefly to New Orleans where he worked with the bands of Fate Marable and Fats Pichon, he was offered a recording contract with Victor Records and returned to New York, where he also joined the Luis Russell band, which was then taken over by Louis Armstrong.

Red Allen's trumpet style has been said by some critics to be the first to fully incorporate the innovations of Louis Armstrong and then go beyond Armstrong. Allen's recordings received much favorable attention.

In the early 1930s Allen played with Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra, then after a stint with Don Redman, played with Lucky Millinder's band from 1934 to 1937. Allen continued making many recordings under his own name, as well as recording with Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton as well as accompanying vocalists including Victoria Spivey and Billie Holliday. From 1937 to 1940 Allen again played in Armstrong's band. After a short stint with Benny Goodman Allen started leading his own band at The Famous Door in Manhattan. He then toured with his band around the USA into the late 1950s. Allen's versitility is shown by his winning of Downbeat awards in both the traditional jazz and the modern jazz categories. In 1959 he joined Kid Ory's band, with whom Allen made his first tour of Europe.

Allen then returned to working under his own name making more tours of the USA and Europe until his death on April 17, 1967 in New York City.

Further Reading

"Ride, Red, Ride - The Life of Henry 'Red' Allen" by John Chilton, Continuum, 1999