Carl Allen is a Milwaukee native whose life is described by a pursuit for knowledge, experience, and an ever-present swing. This is a theme that has shaped his life since he was a teenager. He has worked with great artists like Sony Stitt and James Moody. When he embarked on his musical quest while studying at the University of Wisconsin between 1979 and 81, he was already enthusiastic.
He then joined Willian Paterson College between 1981 and 1983, where he continued in the pursuit of his lifelong passion for music. Carl Allen always wished for the drum seat trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s band. He joined the band in 1982 and played drums for them for eight years. He was also the musical director and road manager for the trumpeter during these years.
Allen was always focused on becoming the best in everything he did. That is why he only competed with those who were better than him. At one point, he was heard saying that his goal was to “become like Art Blakey, Art Taylor, Elvin Jones, and Billy Higgins… The power of the swing is something else, and everything else ceases to make sense when I get to that level.”
We can say Alle is a true Messenger. It did not take long for him to get to the same level as Art Blakey. He started extending Blakey’s moves into his life while working on other projects aside from Hubbard’s band. Allen co-founded the Big Apple Products with Vincent Herring (an altoist in 1988).
Together, they worked on several high-ranking albums for labels in Japan. These productions bring out the talents of rising stars like Roy Hargrove and Nicholas Payton. The production of albums with the likes Alfa, King, Venus, Keystone Music International, and others was a career change for many young musicians under Allen’s guidance.
One thing that sets the drummer from the rest is his dedication to success and greatness. He maintains a busy schedule of recording and touring. Also, he is an active leader, mentoring others to become the best they can be. He has been recently the leader of New York’s All-Star band on their US/Japan tour. He is also scheduled to work with the Carl Allen Quintet.
Allen is an on-demand sideman. He has recently been in projects with Terence Blanchard and Joe Henderson, Eric Reed, and Vincent Herring. There is no doubt that his work has changed the music industry altogether. Peter Watrous of New York Times describes Allen as an “Aggressive without being intrusive drummer”. He understands how to balance back-and-forth sways of his rhythmic ideas with a strong swinging of the stick.”
“Allen is a physical and strong hitting drummer, a product of Art Blakey school. He pushes his bandmates into being the best they can be…” says Geoffrey Himes of the Washington Post. Indeed, Carl Allen is an excellent example of change in any music scene. His unique style and innovativeness make him and figure to admire. He continues to inspire many through his works while supporting high-profile musicians.