Drummer, bandleader, and educator Carl Allen has been appointed as artistic director of Juilliard’s Jazz Studies program, effective immediately. Mr. Allen has been serving as the interim artistic director since August 2007 and has been a member of the faculty since its inception in 2001. He will lead the program, which is now in its seventh year, working alongside Laurie A. Carter, its executive director. Juilliard’s newest music program, Jazz Studies offers Bachelor and Master of Music degrees as well as an Artist Diploma via the pre-professional Juilliard Institute for Jazz Studies, a collaboration of Juilliard and Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Mr. Allen’s appointment was announced by President Joseph W. Polisi on February 4 at a Juilliard Jazz Orchestra concert. “We are all delighted that Carl Allen has accepted our invitation to be the artistic director of jazz studies at Juilliard,” President Polisi said. “Carl’s professional experience as a performer, teacher, and administrator will allow him to lead our jazz program into the future with creativity and vision.”
Mr. Allen remarked: “It is with great pleasure that I accept this position. The past few months as the interim director have been challenging and rewarding as we are on our way to greatness. Our mission is to develop musicians in the jazz tradition with a knowledge of the past to help build a sound musical future. As artistic director, I will strive to see that we educate, encourage, and empower our students to succeed.”
With more than 150 recordings to his credit, the Milwaukee-born Allen grew up on gospel, R&B, and funk, but later turned to jazz after hearing an LP by the legendary saxophonist Benny Carter. His first hometown gigs were with sax greats Sonny Stitt and Red Holloway at the age of 16. Mr. Allen studied at the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay from 1979 to 1981 and transferred to William Paterson College in New Jersey, where he graduated in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in jazz studies and performance. He joined trumpeter Freddie Hubbard a year before his graduation, served as his musical director for eight years, and recorded several disks with the trumpeter including Double Take and Life Flight.
Mr. Allen also played with many of the great jazz and pop artists of the 20th century, including Benny Golson, Jennifer Holliday, J.J. Johnson, Rickie Lee Jones, Sammy Davis Jr., Branford Marsalis, Kenny Garrett, Lena Horne, and numerous others. Mr. Allen’s first CD as a leader was Piccadilly Square (Timeless, 1989), followed by The Dark Side of Dewey (Evidence), The Pursuer (Atlantic), Testimonial (Atlantic), and Get Ready, his 2007 Mack Avenue gospel/Motown-accented debut release with co-leader, bassist Rodney Whitaker. His sideman discography includes Jackie McLean (Dynasty), Donald Harrison (Indian Blues, Nouveau Swing), Donald Byrd (A City Called Heaven), and Art Farmer (The Company I Keep).
Mr. Allen also is an accomplished businessman. He co-founded Big Apple Productions in 1988 with saxophonist Vincent Herring, produced several recordings for several Japanese labels with future stars Roy Hargrove, Cyrus Chestnut, and Nicholas Payton, and created the Art of Elvin, a tribute band dedicated to his two drum influences. He also produced recordings for pianist Eric Reed, Dewey Redman, Pharoah Sanders, Freddie Hubbard, and guitarist Lage Lund, the winner of the 2005 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, as well as many others totaling nearly 70 credits as a producer. Currently Mr. Allen is the co-leader of the Allen-Whitaker Project with bassist Rodney Whitaker. He also leads his own quintet, Carl Allen & New Spirit.