A versatile acoustic bassist/composer with an adventurous spirit, Ben Allison has often excelled in jazz settings but has leaned toward more eclectic rock and funk-oriented sounds on his own albums. The East Coast native was only nine when he began studying music, and he was 22 when he graduated from New York University with a B.A. in jazz performance.
In 1992, Allison founded the Jazz Composers Collective, a musician-run nonprofit organization that encouraged artists to take risks and didn't shy away from the avant-garde when presenting many concerts in New York. It was in 1994 that the Collective launched the Herbie Nichols Project, which Allison co-directed with pianist Frank Kimbrough. In addition to being employed on albums by Lee Konitz, Ted Nash, and Eddie Gale, the 1990s found Allison playing live with Gary Bartz, Kenny Werner, Dave Liebman, Judi Silvano, Michael Blake, and Clifford Jordan.
Allison first recorded under his own name when he did Seven Arrows for Palmetto in 1996, and has also recorded for Palmetto with his group Medicine Wheel. Third Eye followed in 1999 and Riding the Nuclear Tiger appeared two years later. Peace Pipe was released in 2002, Buzz in 2004, and Cowboy Justice in 2006. Allison often utilizes his backup group Man Size Safe, consisting of Ron Horton (trumpet, flügelhorn), Steve Cardenas (electric guitar), and Michael Sarin (drums). Little Things Run the World, credited to Ben Allison & Man Size Safe, was released on January 22, 2008. Think Free, featuring a lineup that included violinist Jenny Scheinman and trumpeter Shane Endsley, followed in 2009. In 2011, Allison delivered the covers album Action-Refraction.