Marshall Allen (Re: Best jazz alto player who is alive)
Sure, its a matter of personal taste as to who's 'best' but Marshall Allen, well, the man is amazing. Otherworldly.
Marshall can slide along in the smoothest big-band sweet swing melody, then rip up a whirlwind spiral skronk that shoots straight through the top of your head and trails you in its wake out to the deepest stratosphere where it bops and flings you about like a rag doll among the stars and then scream you through the clouds and set you gently back down to earth all in the course of one fluid line in a single chorus, and just when you thought you couldn't get no further flung, he grabs your ears and, pow, zaps you into an alternate dimension. No drug can get you where he takes you.
Seriously, you have to see and hear it there in person to really believe it. Recordings don't do it justice; I have had the excellent good fortune to experience Marshall Allen's playing close up (within maybe two meters) on several occasions, and I always walk away in total awe, unsure if we even play the same instrument. In Toronto at the Hymn to the Universe show he did something mid-solo that was like a sonic clearing of the stage leaving the spotlight on one soloist, really, I don't know what he did, I've listened over and over to the CBC recording, that shooting scale, whatever it was, was like a pillar of fire. It's magic, in the Arthur C Clarke sense of the word.
I tried to upload a sample from an impromptu live university radio broadcast but the attachment thing didn't work for me, so here's a link to moon.fm: http://moon.fm/527/
Not heavily prolific with CD's in last 20 years, but those 2-3 he has done under his name received 5* recognition from Down Beat. My favorite is "Healing the Pain". Some incredible, emotional playing on this disc - dedicated to his parents who had recently passed at the time. But to experience Bunky live is really the only way to gain full impact of his creative, musical genius - not to mention his technical facility and flexibility. He's an amazing altoist and a beautiful person.
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