West Stockbridge — The West Stockbridge Historical Society’s jazz series continues on Saturday, September 9, with composer and alto saxophonist Kris Allen, who will appear in concert with bassist Matt Dwonszyk and drummer Richie Barshay at the Old Town Hall.
Known locally as Artist-In-Residence in Jazz at Williams College, Kris Allen is as renowned for the music he writes as for the instrument he plays. For example, all but one of the cuts on his most recent album, “June,” are self-penned. He plays alto saxophone on all of them. Downbeat Magazine described the record as a “solid, hopeful album” and called an earlier record “one of the better new releases to come out this year.”
Downbeat also reviewed one of Allen’s live shows, reporting that he “tied up Manhattan’s jazz past and its vibrant jazz present with contagious grooves and kinetic compositions.” In other words, Allen has every major jazz style from the past 70 years under his fingers. So, when he performs, you might hear anything from cool jazz to hard bop. And, of course, when he plays as a sideman with people like Gerald Wilson, Andy Gonzales, Jimmy Greene, Helen Sung, Winard Harper, or a dozen others with whom he has collaborated, all bets are off on what might come out of his instrument. But if you want to hear his easygoing, native playing style, then listen to this.
Brooklyn-based Matt Dwonszyk started playing electric bass at age 11 and fell in love with jazz at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts High School, where he studied upright bass, playing in the Youth Jazz Orchestra. He is a composer and recording artist in his own right, having released his debut record as a leader in 2018 featuring his award-winning arrangement of the jazz classic “What a Wonderful World” as well as nine original compositions. He has performed with such jazz legends as Harold Mabern, Larry Willis, David Hazeltine, Anthony Wonsey, Rick Germanson, Hal Galper, Dave Kikoski, Donald Vega, and a very long list of others.
“One of New York’s most sought after jazz drummers,” according to The Seattle Times, Richie Barshay started his drumming career as a little boy banging on kitchen cabinets. He has worked with Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Esperanza Spalding, Natalie Merchant, Bobby McFerrin, The Klezmatics, Fred Hersch, Kenny Werner, and many others. Downbeat magazine called him “a major rhythm voice on the rise” and the Guardian called him “a major innovator who also knows how to have fun.” Since 2004, Richie has worked for the U.S. State Department on five continents as an American Musical Envoy. He has credits on over 90 recordings, including “Sanctuary” featuring Chick Corea and “Homework” featuring Herbie Hancock. “Sanctuary” is Barshay’s second album as a leader. Based in Northampton and New York City, Richie is certified by the American Society for the Alexander Technique to help performing artists and others gain improved body-mind coordination and ease of movement.
Hear saxophonist Kris Allen with bassist Matt Dwonszyk and drummer Richie Barshay at the Old Town Hall in West Stockbridge on Saturday, September 9, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available here.