Allen's career began in Sidney Desvigne's Southern Syncopators. He was playing professionally by 1924 with the Excelsior Brass Band and the jazz dance bands of Sam Morgan, George Lewis and John Casimir. After playing on riverboats on the Mississippi River he went to Chicago in 1927 to join King Oliver's band. Around this time he made recordings on the side in the band of Clarence Williams. After returning briefly to New Orleans where he worked with the bands of Fate Marable and Fats Pichon, he was offered a recording contract with Victor Records and returned to New York City, where he also joined the Luis Russell band, which was fronted by Louis Armstrong in the late 1930s.
In 1929 Allen joined Luis Russell's Orchestra where he was a featured soloist until 1932 when he played with Fats Waller. In 1933 he joined Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra where he stayed until 1934. He also made a series of recordings in late 1931 with Don Redman, and played with Lucky Millinder's Mills Blue Rhythm Band from 1934 to 1937, when he returned to Luis Russell for three more years at a time when this orchestra was often fronted by Louis Armstrong.
Allen continued making many recordings under his own name, as well as recording with Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton as well as accompanying vocalists including Victoria Spivey and Billie Holiday. After a short stint with Benny Goodman, Allen started leading his own band at The Famous Door in Manhattan. He then toured with his band around the USA into the late 1950s.
Allen returned to working under his own name making more tours of the United States and Europe until his death on April 17, 1967 in New York City.
Style and influenceEdit
Red Allen's trumpet style has been said by some criticsTemplate:Who to be the first to fully incorporate, and expand beyond, the innovations of Louis Armstrong. Allen's recordings received much favorable attention. His versatility is shown by his winning of Down Beat awards in both the traditional jazz and the modern jazz categories.
- World on a String (originally "Ride, Red, Ride in Hi-Fi")
- Ride, Red, Ride - The Life of Henry "Red" Allen by John Chilton, Continuum, 1999