Ben Allison Trio plays Tuesday as part of Jazz SLC series

By Jeff Metcalf

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Oct. 11 2012 5:05 p.m. MDT

"Live jazz is where it's at," Ben Allison says.

Greg Aiello

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The second concert in the 2012-13 Jazz SLC series will feature the high-octane talent of bassist and composer Ben Allison and his trio of equally talented musicians.

Joining Allison on stage will be his new trio comprised of guitarist Steve Cardenas, saxophonist Ted Nash and percussionist Rogerio Boccato, who will be replacing drums with a hybrid collection of percussive instruments.

What brings this trio to the Capitol Theatre's stage is a curious mix of timing and an insatiable appetite on the part of Ben Allison to keep exploring the boundaries of jazz.

Allison, a first timer to the Jazz SLC series, will feature the music of legendary guitarist and composer Jim Hall. Although it might seem a bit out of character with Allison's continuous exploration of his own musical compositions, this tribute to Hall is not without foundation.

"When I listen to my own music, I can hear what a great influence Jim Hall had on me. There is always, somewhere in the undercurrent, the influence of Jim's work," said Allison in a recent phone interview.

"I was looking for the right project to bring to Salt Lake and I think this is a perfect fit. What I like about Hall's work is that there is a quirkiness to it, an angularity that I feel connects to my own music."

As a composer, Allison is equally comfortable and adept at incorporating multiple genres of music into his own unique compositions. Born in the mid-'60s, he's grown up under a diversely rich tapestry of music ranging from rock 'n' roll, reggae, funk, classical, chamber and world music that has even crossed into poetry with a collaborative performance that features former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pensky.

Given the breadth and scope of his taste and talent, it seemed logical to ask, "Why jazz?"

"Live jazz is where it's at," he said. "When I was in the fourth grade I remember getting a chance to hear live jazz at our school. It was a duet, a pianist and bassist and I remember how the musicians seemed surprised with each other. Sometimes they'd just smile and nod their heads and I didn't think they knew what they were playing. Later on, I realized they were having a conversation with each other and that appealed to me. I love jazz because it has the improvisational edge that other forms of music don't."

Gordon Hanks, founder of the Jazz SLC series, was ecstatic about Allison joining this year's lineup. "He's the real deal. He's young, incredibly talented and he understands how important is to give back to his own community. I think the patrons will be surprised, especially the young jazz musicians in the audience, when they see how a musician can explore so many varieties of music and still find something new and exciting in the work of a legend like Jim Hall."

It's no surprise to Allison that today's young jazz musicians are greatly impacted and influenced by the music of different cultures.

"I've always been a restless sort of guy who has never felt satisfied with one train of thought," Allison said. "Technology has made it possible for any of us to hear music from all over the world. At the push of a button, you can hear music from Africa and Brazil and the young musicians are embracing such possibilities and incorporating these forms into their own music. The exposure gets broader and broader every day. It's a good thing for music."

If you go …

What: The Ben Allison Trio

When: Tuesday, Oct. 16, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South

How much: $25 ($10 for students

Phone: (801-355-2787)

Jeff Metcalf is a professor of English at the University of Utah and an avid jazz fan.

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