Shamarr Allen - “Meet Me on Frenchmen Street” - Pome Music - 2007
Shamarr Allen is often forgotten when lists of the best young New Orleans brass musicians are drawn, and that’s a shame, as Allen, a trumpeter, injects life into NOLA jazz standards like few other musicians can.
“Meet Me on Frenchmen Street,” Shamarr’s 2007 debut solo album, is a proud display of that talent. While he doesn’t set out to recreate the New Orleans sound like some of his brass brethren, he’s blistering throughout the polished record on familiar jazz tunes, bringing a surprising amount of levity to some somber songs (see: “St. James Infirmary”).
And as good as Shamarr is on the trumpet, he’s just as impressive on vocals. He handles the difficult-to-sing opening title track with ease, and his voice on versions of “St. James Infirmary” and “Yes Suh” are crisp but appropriately gritty. Ellen Smith and Paul Sanchez sit in on a stirring rendition of “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans.”
The album closes out with “Saints Medley,” a fun take on “When the Saints Go Marching In” recorded after the Saints’ NFC Championship run in 2006. It’s a hopeful tune that was all too needed for a city still reeling from Hurricane Katrina, and it’s easy to smile listening to Allen singing that he’ll be in the number when the Saints win the Super Bowl – because you know darn well that he was when Drew Brees hoisted the Lombardi Trophy for all to see.