Born in Philadelphia, Allen began performing and composing at the age of 15. After discovering the music of John Coltrane, Pat Metheny, and Keith Jarrett, he moved to New York City to attend the Manhattan School of Music where he studied with Jack Wilkins, John Abercrombie and David Liebman. Over the next twenty years Allen performed with many of the most respected musicians in jazz today, including Mark Turner, Miguel Zenon, Joey Baron, Ravi Coltrane, Dave Binney, Jeff Ballard, Seamus Blake, Donny McCaslin, Marcus Gilmore, and many others. He has released three critically acclaimed recordings and has been written about in the New York Times, Downbeat Magazine and Jazz Times Magazine. He has toured with his own projects and as a sideman throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia.
As a composer, Allen is known for his challenging writing and his use of rhythmic layering and dense harmonies. He is also deeply influenced and inspired by modern painting, poetry and cinema. He has composed works based on the paintings of Willem de Kooning, the poetry of Wallace Stevens, and the films of Stan Brakage. In 2015 Allen was commissioned to compose a suite for string quartet for the Klasik Keyifler music organization in Istanbul. The work, Thrown Voices, was performed in Cappadocia, Istanbul, Berlin and New York. He has recently made a new recording with his quintet which will be released later in 2018.
As an educator, Allen often gives masterclasses and workshops when traveling. He specializes in advanced rhythmic concepts and modern harmonic vocabulary and often uses his own compositions in his teaching. He is currently developing a book on modern rhythmic concepts for improvisers and composers. Allen has been a faculty member of the New York Jazz Academy and Bahcesahir University graduate program in Istanbul. He has also taught at New York University and is on the faculty of The University of the Arts and Temple University.
"Allen has found a true voice, his effortless technique downplays the apparent complexity, paradoxically creating a cool surface sheen that has a white heat glowing beneath it...music that seduces both the body and mind, again and again." - All About Jazz
"Dave Allen is one of a number of spitfire jazz guitarists raising the bar on that ever-popular instrument. But Allen offers more than battle-ready chops—his Untold Stories and Real and Imagined are about original music, loftily conceived, with graceful melodic content and subtle rhythmic challenges.
He’s got the pull to assemble world-class bands every time out."
- David Adler, Jazz Times Magazine
“An exciting and unique player in the mold of Pat Metheny, Ben Monder and Adam Rogers. Monster chops, harmonic resourcefulness, strong melodic sense, seamless group interaction, considerable compositional talent and a kick-ass group of talented players make this CD an electrifying piece of work." - Lyle Robinson, Jazzguitarlife.com
"Mr. Allen is a guitarist with a coolly modernistic sensibility, as he demonstrates on a forthcoming album, “Real and Imagined” (Fresh Sound New Talent)." - Nate Chinen, New York Times
"Allen has a fully developed and mature approach to composition, technical command of his instrument, and the inspirational fortitude to pull wonderful music from the ensemble. Each piece is like an aural painting or film in the way it slides across the psyche." - Farrell Lowe, All About Jazz
"Allen has what could be dubbed as “string-imagination,” the ability to quickly form and rethink patterns like moving water--flowing, lucid and spontaneous, paired with superior comping skills--filling in the gaps with creative touches and chord-work." - Mark F. Turner, All About Jazz
"A number of tracks have melodies that etched themselves in my mind. The music is full of subtlety. Allen has no seeming limit to his technique, but he always puts it to good musical ends.” - Budd Koppman, AllAboutJazz.com
“There is a true sensuality to the guitarist’s sound... unfolding his lines with an edge-of-your-seat stealth” - Jim Macnie, Village Voice