After 24-years in the Bay Area, Allen returns to his native Texas for this live set recorded at the Elephant Room in Austin. Despite the garish pinks and blues of the cover art and its unoriginal title, it is a strong date of piano jazz in the Tatum and Powell mold (it's nice on occasion to not hear a trace of Bill Evans). Technically challenging throughout, the disc is imbued with a nod to tradition that looks back to discover rather than imitate.
From Tadd Dameron's opening "Good Bait", Allen lets you know that he's mining depths that call on a pianist's every facility. Luckily, he's got the chops to pull off Dameron's harmonic leaps. Call it cerebral bebop, but Allen's playing is filled with intricate voicings and chord clusters that dart neatly together with finesse and fire.
Sonny Rollins' "Pent Up House" and Bernie Miller's "Bernie's Tune" get similar bop treatment, informing the latter with Monk's dissonant elasticity. Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way" captures the right balance of buoyancy and wistful nostalgia. Allen contributes a pair of ballads ripe with dancing arpeggios in "Waiting" and "Walk through Point Reys" and a cocky blues strut titled "Travelin' On"
Fremgen and Mannion offer solid support throughout and the bassist, after seeming a tad lost on the Dameron, has some fine solos on "Cheek to Cheek" and the Brubeck.
But the CD's finest moments come with Allen's two solo spots - "I Want To Be Happy" and Strayhorn's "Lush Life." Both are dense with the interweaving of melodic and rhythmic ideas. What strikes the listener is his agility at piling poly-chordal on top of one another while always maintaining a striking rhythm and adding a hint of dissonance to keep it interesting. He's an exciting player. Now if he could work on the cover art.