ALLAN JAFFE’S career as a guitarist and composer has spanned a wide range of musical forms, from jazz, blues, funk and ragtime, to opera, music theater, and the art song. While a student at Yale University, he was an integral part of a growing music scene in New Haven, along with such eminent colleagues as Anthony Davis, George Lewis, Gerry Hemingway, Mark Helias and Jane Ira Bloom, among others.
In 1975 Allan moved to New York City and began a career playing in clubs and teaching. An appearance at the Moers Festival in Germany with the Ray Anderson Quartet, in the company of drummer Gerry Hemingway and bassist Mark Dresser, marked his debut on the international stage. Since then his stints as a sideman have included James Brown, Maceo Parker, Julius Hemphill, Marty Ehrlich, Bobby Previte, Tim Berne, Earl Howard and George Russell. His cooperative avant/funk band, Slickaphonics, which featured Ray Anderson on trombone and vocals, developed a cult following in Europe and helped to establish Allan as a rhythmic and lyrical voice on the electric guitar.
Allan’s compositional skills immediately became evident in Soundscape, his debut album as a leader, released in 1978, as well as his writing for Slickaphonics, in which he took an active role. In the early 1980s he formed a writing partnership with librettist Deborah Atherton, which has yielded a musical theatre work, Carmilla, an adaptation of the 19th century vampire story by J.S. LeFanu. and an opera, Mary Shelley, based on the life of the author of Frankenstein, which had its debut in 2002 at The Ethical Culture Society in New York City. He and Deborah are presently working on their third collaboration, "Songs of the City".
Over the last twenty years, Allan has been developing a new, unique form of solo guitar music, which he calls the guitar rag. Rooted in the bluesy fingerstyle of classic artists such as Mississippi John Hurt and Blind Blake, these pieces combine the natural feel and simple directness of the blues with the harmonic development and melodic variety of the piano rag. In 2005, Hal Leonard publications released the music folio/CD, Ragtime Guitar, which includes three of Allan’s original rags along with his arrangements of eleven class piano rags for guitar. This was shortly followed by his CD, Rags For Guitar, Jaffe’s own performances of these compositions and arrangements. To date, Allan has composed close to thirty guitar rags.
From jazz to funk, opera to guitar rags. Allan Jaffe’s career has incorporated many forms of creative music. All these endeavors have one thing in common: a close tie to the sounds and rhythms of American root music.