Basic Background Info

Birth: April 25, 1961
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Band: Carl Allen & The Art of Elvin, Carl Allen & New Spirit, The Carl Allen-Rodney Whitaker Project
Genres: Jazz
Instruments: Drums
Occupation: Musician, Producer, Educator


Growing up in a musically inclined family, Carl Allen's drumming career began at the age of three when he would misuse his mother's kitchenware for his forays into percussion experimentation. Little Carl Allen grew up listening to R&B, funk, and gospel. Carl Allen developed a taste for jazz once he heard an LP featuring saxophone legend Benny Carter, and he began taking drum lessons at the age of eight with Roy Sneider. This is where Carl Allen first received formal instruction in the art of jazz drumming. Carl became the drummer for his elementary school, and then his high school band.

At the tender age of sixteen, Carl Allen played his first professional live gig for saxophonist Sonny Stitt. Carl Allen's talent earned him a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, where he studied classical percussion. While there, Carl Allen was referred to audition for the legendary Count Basie Band. Allen did not feel like he was up to the task quite yet and declined the offer. He pressed on, eager to earn his chops, and transferred to William Patterson College in New Jersey. He graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Jazz Studies and Performance.

In 1982, a year before his graduation, Carl Allen became the drummer for trumpeter Freddie Hubbard's band. Carl Allen recorded numerous albums with Hubbard, who became Carl's musical director and road manager for the next eight years. During those years, Carl Allen was both a leader and a sideman for a multitude of artists. Currently, he leads the following groups: New Spirit, Carl Allen & The Art of Elvin, and The Carl Allen-Rodney Whitaker Project.

Carl Allen co-founded Big Apple Productions in 1988 with saxophonist Vincent Herring. Carl Allen takes an extreme hands-on approach working with the artists from the very start of the writing process all the way until the last note is recorded in the studio. His reasoning is that, "often, you see the producer for the first time in the studio and then they want to make suggestions about the music. My thing is, 'Where were you when the music was being developed?'"

Big Apple Productions develops new talent and produces music primarily for Japanese jazz labels. Despite the apparent niche market, Carl Allen has earned worldwide recognition as a producer. Carl Allen has grown to be one of the most respected jazz drummers of his generation. His philosophy is simple: don't get in the way of the music and play what feels good.


Album Year Album Name Album Band
1985 Clarion Echoes Frank Gordon
1985 Double Take Freddie Hubbard & Woody Shaw
1987 Crystal Stair Donald Harrison & Terence Blanchard
1987 Life Flight Freddie Hubbard
1987 Eternal Triangle Freddie Hubbard & Woody Shaw
1987 Imagination Woody Shaw
1988 Black Pearl Donald Harrison & Terence Blanchard
1988 Dreamboat Manhattan Projects
1988 Dynasty Jackie McLean
1989 Piccadilly Square Carl Allen
1989 Sources of Inspiration Donald Brown
1990 Full Circle Donald Harrison
1991 The Time Is Now Don Braden
1991 Wish List Don Braden
1991 Cause and Effect Donald Brown
1991 A City Called Heaven† Donald Byrd
1991 Greens Benny Green
1991 One Day Spent Vince Jones
1991 Jackie Mac Attack Live Jackie McLean
1991 Rites of Passage Jackie McLean Quintet
1991 New York Summit Steve Wilson
1991 Indian Blues Donald Harrison
1991 Evidence Vincent Herring
1992 The Dark Side of Dewey Carl Allen & Manhattan Projects
1992 Nut Cyrus Chestnut
1992 The Nutman Speaks Cyrus Chestnut
1992 The Nutman Speaks Again Cyrus Chestnut
1992 Testifyin': Live at the Village Vanguard The Benny Green Trio
1992 That's Right! The Benny Green Trio
1992 Colors of Brooklyn Pete Yellin & The Brooklyn Jazz Machine
1993 The Pursuer Carl Allen
1993 Echoes of Our Heros Carl Allen & Manhattan Projects
1993 After Dark Don Braden
1993 Another Direction Cyrus Chestnut
1993 Focusing In Dan Faulk Quartet
1993 Blue Notes The Benny Green Trio
1993 Folklore: Live at the Village Vanguard Vincent Herring
1993 When The Time Is Right Javon Jackson
1993 The Art of Blakey Message
1993 A View From Manhattan Henrik Meurkens
1994 Testimonial Carl Allen
1994 Another's Point of View Eddie Allen
1994 Remembrance Eddie Allen Quintet
1994 Company I Keep Art Farmer
1994 African Venus Dewey Redman
1995 Full Range Eric Alexander
1995 Car Tunes Donald Brown
1995 Kush: The Music of Dizzy Gillespie Ritchie Cole
1995 The Meaning of Art Art Farmer
1995 Crossroad The Kevin Hays Quintet
1995 Don't Let It Go Vincent Herring
1995 MMTC: Monk, Miles, Trane, & Cannon Freddie Hubbard
1995 The Lady and Her Music Lena Horne
1996 Anthonyology Anthony Wonsey
1996 Alto Summit Phil Woods, Vincent Herring, Antonio Hart
1996 It's You or No One Pete Yellin
1997 We Remember Cannonball Carl Allen & Manhattan Projects
1997 Up Jumped Benny Benny Golson
1997 Nouveau Swing Donald Harrison
1997 Another Perspective Anthony Wonsey
1998 Landmarks Donald Byrd
1998 Like a Hurricane Chris Hillman
1998 Trumpet Legacy Nicholas Payton
1998 Pure Imagination Eric Reed
1998 Mellow Soul Pete Yellin
1999 Skim Coat Carl Allen / Billy Childs / Buster Williams
1999 Made in NYC Joey Berkley Quartet
1999 Jazz in Film Terrence Blanchard
1999 Dance of Life Xavier Davis
1999 From the Inside Out Mike DiRubbo
1999 Sterling Place All Stars Vincent Herring
1999 Topsy Freddie Hubbard
1999 Ballads and Blues: The Brooklyn Session Rodney Whitaker
2000 Everything I Love Elaine Elias
2000 It's Like This Rickie Lee Jones
2000 Tribute to the Trumpet Masters Bryan Lynch
2001 The Sidewinder Big Apples
2001 Best of Elaine Elias Vol. 1: Originals Elaine Elias
2001 Times Change Wayne Escoffery
2001 One Day Forever Benny Golson
2001 Are You Married... Miki Kono
2001 Live at the Village Vanguard Mary Stallings
2001 Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival 1999 Buster Williams
2003 Love Makes the Changes Ernestine Anderson
2003 State of Mind Dave Ellis
2004 Terminal 1 Benny Golson
2004 Winter Moon Rodney Whitaker
2005 Battle Eric Alexander
2007 Get Ready Carl Allen & Rodney Whitaker
2007 Hot Brass Ricky Ford
2007 Many Moods of Benny Golson Benny Golson
2007 For Art's Sake Donald Harrison
2007 Kind of New Donald Harrison
2007 Live at MCG Dr. Billy Taylor and Gerry Mulligan
2007 Dear Friends Miki Yamoka
2008 Brand New Alex Graham


  • "My ultimate goal is to get to a level like Art Blakey, Art Taylor, Elvin Jones, and Billy Higgins and these cats who, every time they sit down behind a set of drums it's swinging.  The power of swing is something else, and once I get to that level, everything else falls into place." -Carl Allen
  • "Young players have to understand the importance of being able to make the audience want to dance, which comes from having a strong sense of foundation. It’s cool if you can play the hippest Elvin lick. But the majority of your audience isn’t made up of musicians. They don’t sit there and think, ‘Oh, that lick’s from that record.’ But they will recognize if it felt good, or if it didn’t." -Carl Allen
  • Carl Allen performed on over 150 different recordings and produced more than 70 albums.
  • His ensemble, Carl Allen & The Art of Elvin, is a tribute to his two greatest influences, Art Blakey and Elvin Jones.
  • Carl Allen has played with such artists as Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Ruth Brown, Sammy Davis Jr., Kenny Garrett, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Jennifer Holliday, Bobby Hutcherson, J.J. Johnson, Rickie Lee Jones, Branford Marsalis, Nellie McKay, Wayne Shorter, and Phil Woods.
  • Carl is a spokesperson for the organization Jazz Against Drugs.
  • "...once you step up to bat and start waving that banner to say you are a professional jazz drummer, you have a responsibility to uphold the legacy that people have died for to put forth." -Carl Allen.
  • He is a drum instructor, as well as Coordinator of Small Ensembles and Interim Artistic Director of Jazz Studies at the Julliard Institute for Jazz Studies in New York.

Instruments of Choice



Drums: Drum Workshop
Cymbals: Sabian
Hardware: Drum Workshop
Heads: Evans
Electronics: Shure, Roland, Samsontech, Sibelius
Percussion: Puresound
Sticks: Pro-Mark

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