Destined For Greatness – Allison Philips – Trumpet Player, Composer, Arranger

By Gregory Burrus

At the beginning of this year while researching events to do in my favorite activity of all things jazz, I came across the fact there was a jazz trio playing in one of my local New Jersey music venues in the Valley Arts District: the Hat City Kitchen restaurant, which is located in the City of Orange, New Jersey.  It showcases many local musicians and artists from super-seasoned to the many young and up and coming artists.  The show I found was titled the Allison Philips Trio and hate to say, having never heard of her, I said why not check out someone new playing Jazz for the New Year. 

Allison Philips Trio

Image: Gregory Burrus

Image: Gregory Burrus

Doing some further investigation I found out that Allison Philips is an up and coming trumpet player, and I also discovered that Allison Philips' hometown of South Orange, NJ is my hometown.  I learned that she began playing the trumpet at the age of 9 and has been performing on a regular basis since she was 14-years-old.  Allison Philips has a BFA in Jazz Performance from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music of New York City and is now pursuing a Masters in Jazz Performance at The Conservatorium Van Amsterdam, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 

Allison in Europe, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.  Image: Allison Philips Amsterdam

Allison in Europe, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.  Image: Allison Philips Amsterdam

Alison Philips Trio, Hat City Kitchen in Orange, NJ 

With some trepidation of would this be good or not, I saw that this night's event was the Alison Philips Trio featuring Devin Starks on Bass and Connor Parks on Drums and was told they would be playing some serious jazz standards from Ornette Coleman and more.  So this was getting exciting. 

Image: Gregory Burrus

Image: Gregory Burrus

Well, happy to say, it was a very enjoyable performance.  The sets consisted of a mix of older and newer compositions that felt very upbeat, to say the least. "Micro," the first tune, was the oldest, which Allison told me she originally arranged for a quintet while she was working on her Bachelor's Degree at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.  Allison further stated that a number of her newer tunes, "Orange Beaks," "Wheel" and "Triad," were written over the past year-and-a-half since Allison has been playing in Amsterdam music venues.  Well, the Amsterdam influence was evident when she stated that "'Orange Beaks' is a song I wrote because Amsterdam is a beautiful city, where there's a lot of wildlife especially the local ducks and swans, hence the composition name, 'Orange Beaks.'"

For a person of such a young age, it’s nice that when you listen to Alison Philips play, you do feel past trumpet players streaming out of her horn, intertwined with her own set of experiences, and you can see her starting to make it her own.  Allison has stated that, “In terms of trumpet players that I look to for inspiration: Ingrid Jensen, Booker Little, Dave Douglas, Avishai Cohen just to name a few.”  I personally enjoyed the show, as the sets played were tight and professionally conducted.  The trio played the standards strong and in a very recognizable manner.  Her own compositions were strong in that the synchronizations amongst the trio were tight, yet each member was able to shine through when they played their solos.  No one played on just for the sake of playing.

It was an extremely enjoyable event, and that may be due to what Allison mentioned to me, that “playing with Connor (Parks) and Devin (Starks) is always amazing.  They both listen and react in extremely creative ways, and on top of that are great friends.”  And I agree, these guys played great and the individual songs were so good that near the end of the song in some cases, one wished for a little bit more of an extension.

While Allison can be considered a jazz trumpet player, she has stated that, “Over the past 4 years or so I have developed a heavy interest in American folk/country music.  I always like to try and incorporate some of this music into my repertoire.  This can be challenging at times since so much of this music relies on the lyrics.  I like to experiment with incorporating these moods into a more instrumental setting."

Image: Gregory Burrus

Image: Gregory Burrus

After meeting her, it’s clear that pigeonholing her to a particular category or class will be a challenge, when you have the talent she does.  So, being a jazz fan, I’m glad I had the opportunity to spend an evening listening to Allison Philips, the jazz musician, whom I believe is going to go extremely far in this industry.  Serious about developing her career, Allison is active both as a leader and a sideman.  Over the years she has performed with numerous groups including but not limited to: Charlie Rosen Broadway Big Band, Nick Blaemire and the Hustle, Pedro Branco Quartet, Brother Valiant, Dawn Drake and Zapote, and Joe Benjamin and the Mighty Handful.

Since South Orange, NJ is her hometown, Allison spends time playing at music venues here and abroad, and is poised for a big year as she said to me, "I plan to put out an EP or short album sometime this Summer."

If you love the serious side of jazz, check out her schedule of upcoming events at www.allisonphilips.com, and when you see Allison Philips pop up on your local New Jersey venue this summer, I seriously recommend you check her out. You will love what you hear. 

About the Writer

Gregory Burrus is a supporter of local businesses, community events, jazz, blues musicians and local art exhibitions.  On a regular basis he promotes art, music, business, government and local community events through social media marketing, writing articles, blogging and photo journalism.  Gregory Burrus resides in the beautiful, historic town of South Orange, New Jersey, the home of beautiful gas lamps, many historic buildings, some wonderful old trees, the South Orange Performing Arts Center, Seton Hall University, South Mountain Reservation and many gorgeous, vibrant, growing communities in the surrounding North Jersey towns and cities of Essex County.  Having fun living life while helping others. Visit Greg at facebook.com/gregoryburrus

Keywords:  Allison Philips, jazz, Amsterdam, allison philips trio, performance, music, trumpet, south orange, music venues