Monday, July 23, 2012

JD Allen - The Matador and the Bull (Savant, 2012)

The trio on this album is led by tenor saxophonist JD Allen, accompanied by Gregg August on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. Shakespeare wrote that brevity was the soul of wit and Allen’s group has been exploring that notion over the course of their past few trio albums. Their songs are brief, ranging from two to four and one-half minutes in length, and by distilling their ideas and weeding out any extraneous playing they arrive at a very concentrated and potent sound. The fact that this band has been together for a number of years is a big help also, as they can react to each other’s moves and keep the music pithy and forceful. The bullfighting metaphor is an apt one for this album as the three toreadors (musicians) duck and weave around the bull (the music) looking for a place to move in for the kill. Two versions of the song “The Matador and the Bull” bookend the album, the first one, subtitled Torero, is strong and angular with the musicians slashing and swaying in preparation for their meeting with the bull. The final track, subtitled Toro, runs longer with a thoughtful tone expressing the ending of the battle and the finale of the contest. In between those performances it’s a pretty wild ride, from the scalding uptempo presentations of “Ring Shout” and “Paseillo” which have excellent bass and drum movement along with deep and yearning saxophone. “Santa Maria (Mother)” and “Vuela (The Whisperer)” develop humid and late night ballad tones, at times lonely and elegiac and others probing and exploratory. This album worked well as a whole with August and Royston providing and excellent foil for Allen’s dark, rich and strong-coffee saxophone tone. The music is angular and coheres organically, showing majestic sweep that is quite admirable. The Matador and The Bull -

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