BEN ALLISON & MEDICINE WHEEL at Revival (783 College), Friday (September 14). $15-$20. 416-535-7888.
You won't find bassist Ben Allison cozying up to any of New York's famously competitive jazz factions.
The rising composer and improviser has nothing to do with Manhattan's backward-looking traditionalists and even less in common with the downtown avant hipster scene or Brooklyn's free-blowing mob.
Instead, Allison created his own clique, the Jazz Composers Collective, carving out his own place in New York's jazz landscape and challenging the music, whether he's jamming with Malian kora plucker Mamadou Diabate or exploring funky, dance-floor-friendly grooves with his Medicine Wheel group on their latest CD, Ride The Nuclear Tiger .
Both these projects expand the concept of what jazz music is and can be, something Allison has always wanted to do but only recently figured out how to do.
"When you start out playing jazz, you spend a lot of time learning the language of the music," Allison explains from Manhattan. "You're so focused that sometimes you lose sight of everything else. After playing for years, I suddenly realized how much music I used to listen to, and how that music had been pushed aside by jazz.
"When I was in high school, I used to listen almost exclusively to ska, but I never play that kind of stuff any more. Now that I have my own stuff together, I can do whatever I want, so hopefully those sounds that I used to dig will come back out. As my drummer said, 'We make music that makes you stomp your foot and scratch your head.'"
The problem, of course, is convincing the jazz police that the funky, sample-friendly beats they're doing now can still be considered jazz. Easier said than done.
"Within the jazz world there are some pretty serious jazz snobs," Allison laughs. "If you don't do what they say, you're out of the club. I don't worry about that so much.
"One of the reasons I created the Jazz Composers Collective was so that I wouldn't have do deal with that kind of business. The Collective allows us to try different things and go where our instincts lead us, rather than be concerned about what fits at this particular time. If you create your own scene, everything fits.
"There's really only a fine line between a traditionalist and someone who's forward-thinking. You just have to cover your tracks. That's how this music survives and grows."