Allan Chase

Jazz Saxophonist, Composer, Educator

Allan Chase is a jazz saxophonist, composer, educator, and researcher. Since 2008, he has chaired the Ear Training department at Berklee College of Music in Boston and teaches courses in improvisation and jazz history as part of Berklee’s Global Jazz Institute. He taught at New England Conservatory from 1994 to 2012, chaired NEC’s Jazz Studies and Improvisation department (1996-2001) and Contemporary Improvisation department (2005-8), and served as NEC’s Dean of Faculty from 2000 to 2006.

Allan Chase has appeared as a saxophone soloist on over fifty recordings, eight of which feature his own compositions, and performs in New England, New York City, and Europe. The Allan Chase Quartet's Dark Clouds With Silver Linings, his first recording as a leader, was released in October 1995 and was selected as one of the top ten CDs of the year by Bob Blumenthal of the Boston Globe and critics for JazzIz and other publications. His second CD, Phoenix, features drummer Lewis Nash in a tribute to their hometown. It was recorded in 1996 and released in 2000.

Allan Chase was born on June 22, 1956 in Willimantic, Connecticut, and grew up in Phoenix, Arizona from the age of four. His parents were jazz fans and a close family friend, jazz pianist and singer Karl Woodman, was an early influence. He started playing alto saxophone in public school band in 1965 at the age of 9. He began taking private saxophone lessons in 1971-72, attended the Mesa Community College summer jazz workshops in 1973 and ‘74, and the NAU Music Camp in ‘73. He received his bachelor's degree in music theory and composition from Arizona State University in 1978, where he studied composition with Ronald LoPresti, classical saxophone with Joseph Wytko, and jazz with Dan Haerle. He also studied jazz improvisation and harmony with Phoenix saxophonist and pianist Frank Smith in 1975. While still a college student, he performed in clubs, concerts, and festivals with local jazz musicians, including Charles Lewis, Prince Shell, Lewis Nash, and Francine Reed.

In the summers of 1978 and '79, Chase studied improvisation and composition with Roscoe Mitchell, Karl Berger, George Lewis, Anthony Braxton, Leo Smith, Jerome Cooper, Jack DeJohnette, Frederic Rzewski, and others at the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, New York. Chase and jazz drummer Lewis Nash formed a a duo in 1979 and performed frequently in Arizona jazz festivals and concerts during 1979 and '80.

Moving to Boston in 1980, Chase completed a year of graduate study in jazz performance, arranging, and music theory at New England Conservatory, where he studied saxophone with Joe Allard. From 1981 to 1990, he was a member of the faculty at Berklee College of Music where he taught courses in composition, arranging, improvisation, ear training, harmony, counterpoint, jazz ensembles and jazz history and assisted in the administration of the Harmony department.

In 1981, Chase joined the newly formed jazz group Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet (YNSQ). Playing a unique repertoire of original compositions and arrangements that blended jazz, free improvisation, world musics, and contemporary classical composition, the group performed throughout New England, New York, and western Europe through 1995. YNSQ issued a self-produced LP in 1985 and made five CDs for the Amsterdam-based Coppens label, including a highly acclaimed collection of original arrangements of compositions by Sun Ra, Plutonian Nights (1991), which was selected as one of the top ten CDs of the year by Francis Davis for the Village Voice. YNSQ performed in the Moers Festival of New Jazz, the Hannover Jazztage, the Tübingen Festival, Philadelphia's Mellon PSFS Jazz Festival, the Boston Globe Jazz Festival, the Bang on a Can Festival (New York), and the nationally broadcast NPR series, "New Sounds Live from Merkin Hall." YNSQ recorded thirteen of Chase's compositions and seven of his arrangements. Former YNSQ members Chase, Tom Hall, and Joel Springer continued to perform as a free improvisation trio in Boston through 2001, and have occasionally reunited for performances as a quartet with founding member Cercie Miller since 2006.

During the 1980s, Chase also led small jazz groups and played as a sideman in and around Boston with jazz artists including Mick Goodrick, Donald Brown, Alan Dawson, Teddy Kotick, D. Sharpe, Bob Moses, the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra (including appearances with guest artists Julius Hemphill, Muhal Richard Abrams, and JoAnne Brackeen), and the Either/Orchestra. He recorded jazz albums with Gunther Schuller, Dominique Eade and Stanley Cowell, the Joe Mulholland Sextet, Latin vibraphonist Victor Mendoza, and Orange Then Blue. He played in and organized concerts of new improvised music, performed and recorded with original rock bands including The AlphaBettys with drummer D. Sharpe, Men and Volts, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Diatribe, and Steve Stain, played in a swing dance band alongside veteran saxophonists Dave Chapman and John LaPorta, and recorded and occasionally arranged music for advertising and industrial films. He also premiered several chamber pieces for saxophone(s) by composers Thomas Oboe Lee, Robert Livingston Aldridge, and others.

In 1988, Chase returned to graduate study at Tufts University, earning an M.A. in Ethnomusicology with specialization in African music and jazz. His master's thesis was a book-length study of the life and music of Sun Ra, including original historical research, oral history interviews, transcriptions and analysis.

Chase lived in New York City from 1990 to '96, where he performed with artists including John Zorn, Rashied Ali, William Parker, Fred Hersch, Harvie Swartz, the Microscopic Septet, and the Walter Thompson Orchestra, while continuing to tour and record with Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet and his own quartet featuring Ron Horton (trumpet), Tony Scherr (bass), and Matt Wilson (drums). He is a featured soloist in Phillip Johnston's scores for the Phillip Haas films Money Man (BBC documentary, 1992), The Music of Chance (feature film, 1993), and Paul Mazursky's film Faithful (feature film, 1996). Chase recorded four CDs with Prima Materia, a quintet co-led by drummer Rashied Ali and tenor saxophonist Louie Belogenis, and performed with them at the 1996 North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague and the Knitting Factory (club and festivals), Vision Festival, Dharma, and The Cooler in New York. At various times, the group included bassists William Parker, Joe Gallant, and Wilber Morris, and pianists Greg Murphy and Uri Caine. As a member of Prima Materia, Chase performed with a number of guest artists who appeared with the quintet, including Andrew Cyrille, John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Junie Booth, Steve Bernstein, Frank London, Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Borah Bergman, and, sitting in briefly on one festival performance, Ravi Coltrane. Chase was a member of the Walter Thompson Orchestra from 1991 to 1998, playing alongside Thomas Chapin, Herb Robertson, Dave Douglas, Steven Bernstein, Steve Swell, David Tronzo, Tomas Ulrich, Joe Fonda, and many other leading New York improvisers.

After commuting between New York and Boston to teach at Tufts University and NEC for three years, Chase returned to Boston in July 1996 to chair New England Conservatory's department of Jazz Studies and Improvisation, a position he held until July 2001 when his duties as Dean of Faculty grew to full-time. He later co-chaired, then chaired the Contemporary Improvisation (formerly Third Stream Studies) program at NEC from fall 2005 through spring 2008. After resigning as Dean of Faculty in the summer of 2006 after the death of NEC President Daniel Steiner, Chase also continued to teach jazz history, theory, and composition courses, private lessons in jazz saxophone and improvisation, and small jazz ensembles at NEC, all of which he did part- or full-time from 1994 to 2012. He returned to Berklee College of Music as chair of the Ear Training department in August 2008 and has been involved with the Global Jazz Institute at Berklee and its master’s degree program from the planning stages to the present. He briefly served as Interim Dean of Berklee’s Performance Division in spring and summer 2016. Chase is the author and teacher of a Berklee Online course, Ear Training for Live Performance (offered every quarter since Spring 2013).

After returning to Boston in 1996, Chase recorded and played frequently with Bruno Råberg, Steve Lantner, Joe Morris, Joe Mulholland, Bob Nieske, Luther Gray, the Ayn Inserto Orchestra, the Greg Hopkins Nonet, the Carl Atkins/Bill Lowe Boston Jazz Repertory Orchestra, and his own groups, often featuring Phil Grenadier on trumpet or Mick Goodrick or Jon Damian on guitar. Through 2001, he continued to perform occasionally with some New York-based groups. On September 11, 2000, he led a quartet featuring Uri Caine, Cecil McBee and Rashied Ali in a sold-out concert at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. He performed free duo improvisations with his wife, vocalist Dominique Eade, at the Autumn Uprising Festival in 2001 and the Middletown (CT) Jazz Composers and Improvisers Festival in 2015, and performed with the Boston Braxton Project with Taylor Ho Bynum and Matana Roberts at the Institute of Contemporary Art in 2002. He toured Sweden and Norway with the Bruno Råberg Quartet in fall 2002. In 2002-3, he also performed in Boston concerts with Leroy Jenkins and Steve Lacy, recorded a large ensemble piece with Anthony Braxton, and played baritone saxophone in two New York concerts of Gerry Mulligan’s music with Mulligan’s former rhythm section players Bill Mays, Dean Johnson, and Ron Vincent. He recorded a CD entirely on baritone saxophone with John McNeil in early 2004, released as East Coast Cool (Omnitone) in early 2006. Chase was listed as one of the top 10 “Rising Stars” on baritone saxophone in the 2006 Downbeat Critics’ Poll.

Since 2004, he has worked regularly and recorded with pianist Steve Lantner’s critically acclaimed free jazz quartet, along with Joe Morris on bass and Luther Gray on drums. He appears on three CDs with Lantner on the Skycap and HatArt labels, and on Joe Morris’s Bass Quartet CD (HatArt) alongside trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum. He’s performed in Boston, New York (at The Stone), Münster, and Hanover, Germany with Lantner, Morris, and Gray.

Presently, Chase leads varying groups from jazz trios to big bands to free improvisation pools in bimonthly gigs at the Lily Pad in Cambridge, faculty recitals and concerts at Berklee, and occasional gigs elsewhere. He continues to perform regularly around New England in groups led by Bruno Råberg, Joel Springer’s Macuco Quintet, the Ayn Inserto Orchestra and other Boston-based big bands (Greg Hopkins’ nonet and jazz orchestra, Fernando Huergo’s big band, etc.), and other jazz groups.

Allan Chase has presented clinics and master classes at Berklee’s Valencia, Spain campus (annually 2014-18), Rhythm Alley, Taipei (2017), Seoul Jazz Academy (2017), JEN Conferences (2015, 2019), Rimon School of Music, Tel Aviv (2014, )the University of Colorado, Boulder (2013), George Fox University (2010), the Puerto Rico Conservatory (2009), Arizona State University (2004, 2008, 2015, 2018), four music schools in Sweden (2002), the Tirano Jazz Master Class, Italy (1997, 1998), the Wichita Jazz Festival (1994, 1995), the Rotterdam Conservatory (1992, 1994), and the Royal Conservatory, Den Haag (1992), and guest lectures on jazz history for the Seacoast Jazz Society in New Hampshire. He is program leader for the Interlochen Summer Jazz camp starting in June 2019.

Allan Chase lives with his wife, jazz singer, composer, and NEC jazz voice teacher Dominique Eade, near Boston, Massachusetts. They have two sons.  

Last updated 11.25.18.