From great-grandmother to grandfather to father to son. That’s the musical legacy of the Allred family.
John Allred’s great-grandmother was born near New Orleans in Franklin, Louisiana. His grandfather John was a jazz pianist and banjoist who played on the steamboats of the famed Streckfus Line that plied the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Father Bill is a highly-regarded trombonist—still active—who has had a 45-year career at Disney World and venues in Florida and heading his own band.
John knew at an early age that he wanted to carry on the family jazz legacy. Born in Rock Island, Illinois and growing up in a musical environment, he soon developed a deep appreciation for jazz. “My Dad collected instruments, and he was always listening to his father’s early jazz records,” John recalled. “He had a huge respect for traditional jazz, which made a big impression on me.”
The family moved to Florida in 1971 when Bill was one of the first musicians hired at Disney World. Rehearsals were held at the Allred home after which the musicians would sit around, drink beer and tell stories. John learned the vocabulary of jazz by listening and was surprised at the number of tunes he knew.
John’s first opportunity to go on stage was at Rosie O’Grady’s Goodtime Emporium on Church Street in Orlando when he was dressed in the same attire as the band members. At the age of 13, John played his first festival on trombone with his father: the Bix in Davenport, Iowa. Bill advised his son, “Stand next to me and watch what I do.” John admits to being awestruck, but came away with a great feeling for having played the entire festival.
With the Jazz Minors
Upon graduation from high school, John relocated to Southern California to start playing professionally with The Jazz Minors, a six-piece Dixieland jazz band at Disneyland in Anaheim. Still in his teens, John was soon caught up in the Los Angeles music scene that included being a member of Dave Wells Trombone City and recording with the Los Angeles Jazz Workshop. In addition to his interest in early jazz, he ventured into other musical styles. This versatility allowed him many opportunities to perform with big bands and studio orchestras.
Now married, it was back to Florida in 1986 where John became active in the jazz and studio scenes that involved Disney World, Broadway shows, even the circus. He toured for a time with Harry Connick Jr’s big band. For the major motion picture, My Girl, he coached actor Dan Ackroyd to appear as if he were playing the tuba, and John recorded the tuba parts for the sound track.
In 1987 John accepted an offer to join Woody Herman and the Young Thundering Herd as lead trombonist and featured soloist. During his three years with Woody’s band, John played in hundreds of clubs, concert halls and colleges across the nation, including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, while performing with the likes of Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, Clark Terry, Buddy DeFranco, Terry Gibbs and Stan Getz.
“It was another great experience,” John recalled. “Everything we did was focused on the music. You had to be perfect in what you were doing, and everybody played their best.” Returning to Orlando, John began working more with his father in Bill Allred’s Classic Jazz Band. He led a euphonium band, worked at Rosie O’Grady’s and the MGM Studios,, and performed in many production shows for headliners such as: Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Paul Anka, Wayne Newton, Don Rickles, Joan Rivers, Regis and Kathy Lee, the Moody Blues, The Temptations and The Four Tops.
First Jazz Party in 1988
John’s first jazz party was at Indianapolis in 1988 where he met Jake Hanna, Ralph Sutton, Bob Haggart and Yank Lawson who took an interest in furthering the young trombonist’s career. It was about this time that John expanded his horizon when he was invited to play at festivals in Europe. In 1990, John accepted a spot with the famed Matteson-Phillips Tuba-Jazz Consort, a unique ensemble that featured John on euphonium alongside jazz great Rich Matteson and famous tubist Harvey Phillips.
John released his first trombone solo recording, In the Beginning, with Arbors Records in 1993. The year 1999 saw John Allred move to New York City where he has performed with groups such as Toshiko Akiyoshi’s Big Band, the Woody Herman Orchestra under the direction of Frank Tiberi, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, as well as productions for Dick Hyman, and George Wein for the JVC Jazz Festival.
When not off to a festival or jazz party these days, John can be found playing in a Broadway show orchestra, which he views as a regular job with salary and health benefits. Saying “one has to be a good reader,” his list of credits includes Pajama Game, How to Succeed in Business, Cinderella, Bullets over Broadway, and Finding Neverland.
Looking at the past and future, he says “I’ve enjoyed traveling the world, but at the age of 53, I also enjoy being able to stay home for extended periods. I hope to do more writing, and I especially like playing in small groups. I enjoy every style of jazz and always strive to do my best. I especially want to gain the respect of the musicians I respect. I have no great desire to be famous. I just want to play music that people enjoy and that I enjoy as well.”
Lew Shaw started writing about music as the publicist for the famous Berkshire Music Barn in the 1960s. He joined the West Coast Rag almost thirty years ago and has been a guiding light to this paper through the two name changes since then as we became The Syncopated Times. 47 of his profiles are collected in Jazz Beat: Notes on Classic Jazz. Volume two, containing profiles from 2013-2016 will be available on Amazon soon. He taps his extensive network of connections and friends throughout the traditional jazz world to bring us his Jazz Jottings column every month.