Alan grew up in and around Oakland, California in a musical family. His grandmother was a Broadway actress, and his mother was also a musician, though not by trade. Moreover, Alan found a natural ally in his identical twin brother Mark, a drummer, who remains a frequent collaborator of Alan’s and is equally active on the jazz scene. Both Mark and Alan began their musical training on the piano, around age four. Alan recalls his first musical memory, which involved learning to play a piece from a Suzuki method book:
I remember I was just very attracted to how all these disparate sounds could work together so beautifully. It wasn’t something, obviously, I was analyzing at the time. It was just something I felt. It felt really good to me—particularly when you start on the piano, you are able to play chords, melodies, supporting chords and what not and really get a sense of how music works.
Alan switched to trombone in the fifth grade: “I’m really tall so I was one of the only guys who could reach close to seventh position in fifth grade, so they pretty much just assigned it to me because physiologically it worked.” In high school, he began to gravitate more towards jazz, and discovered three of his most significant influences: John Coltrane, J.J. Johnson and Art Blakey.
After graduating from college in Los Angeles (where his classmates included Gretchen Parlato, Todd Sickafoose, and his brother Mark), Alan made a spur-of-the-moment decision to move from LA to New York. “I was talking to a friend of mine on the phone who lived in New York—he had actually called the house looking for my brother and I happened to pick up on the phone. ‘Hey, you’re Alan—Mark’s brother. Man, you ever thought of moving to NY? There’s an apartment opening up in my building next week and it’s really cheap.'”
Since arriving here, Alan has collaborated with Charlie Hunter, Sufjan Stevens, Kenny Wheeler, Lee Konitz, Dr. Dre, and countless others. He has also been consistently recognized for his playing, and most recently placed second in the trombone category of the 2012 DownBeat Critics’ Poll. Alan has also released a number of critically-acclaimed recordings of his own music; the most recent, Chamber Songs (Sunnyside), was selected as one of the Best Albums of 2010 by DownBeat. He’s also received commissions from Bang On A Can, the Atlantic Brass Quintet, the Caswell Sisters, and others.
We’re thrilled to welcome Alan and his Expanded Ensemble to our new home (1160 Broadway, 5th floor) this weekend for a two night run. You can prepare by watching this video of the band live at The Blue Whale in Los Angeles, CA. We also recommend this interview with AllAboutJazz (quoted above), which covers Alan’s earliest musical memories, his happenstance move to New York, his most recent album, and what it was like to work with Dr. Dre.