Performing artist and drummer Eric Allen was born in Washington, D.C., but currently he lives in Poland. His first significant memory of jazz dates back to when his father and his friends would gather at his house and listen to his father’s record collection. In particular, he remembers the sounds of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Count Basie and Max Roach. “When Art played his famous ‘Press Roll,’ I knew that I wanted to play the drums,” says Eric. And, after a trip to the corner store to get groceries for his mother, he was hooked.
The grocery story, which was a part of a small shopping center, included a night club that was open for twenty-four hours. To a ten year old there was something strange about this so-called night club; it had no windows and was always dark inside and it was open for business all day and night. On this particular day, when Eric was sent to the store for vegetables, milk, and eggs, and, as he was about to enter the grocery store, all of the sudden there it was: sensation overload with the startling sound of a cymbal (with nails in it) playing the same swinging sound that he heard on his father’s record collection at home! And, as he turned his head in the direction of the night club, his eyes and ears were overwhelmed by a beautiful woman in a green sequined dress and fishnet stockings, and the sound of an organ trio. It is for these reasons that Eric loves jazz today!
The artists that inspire Eric include: Illinois Jacquet; Lionel Hampton; Art Blakey; Miles Davis; and Tony Williams. When he moved to New York City, he met the Jazzmasters and played with Illinois Jacquet who introduced him to “Papa” Jo Jones, Slam Stewart, Lionel Hampton, Joe Williams, and Dexter Gordon.
In a sentence or two, Eric describes jazz with three words: for adults only.