Sunday, June 14, 2015

JD Allen - Graffiti (Savant, 2015)

After recording several albums in the trio format with bass and drums, tenor saxophonist JD Allen switched things up on last year’s album Bloom by adding pianist Orrin Evans to the mix. On this album he is back to the trio format, supported by Rudy Royston on drums and Gregg August on bass. The opener “Naked” features raw drumming which sounds fast and rough, and unadorned saxophone rapidly navigating the thicket developing great drum and saxophone interaction. It is just the loose feel of the trio that is very appealing with Allen’s ripe tenor tone and Royston’s rolling drums making the music feel so very much alive: short, urgent and very well done. “Jawn Henry” has the trio playing fast, full and clean with excellent bass (August is something of a secret weapon throughout the album.) The music is choppy and punchy and Rudy Royston is excellent in pushing the trio forward while locked into the tight bass and returning everybody to the original theme. “Graffiti” begins in a lighter fashion with deft drumming and a softer toned saxophone getting farther from the theme before the bass pulls everyone taut, making for a heavier and more percussive groove. Churning bass and undulating drums herald “Sonny Boy” and Allen moves thoughtfully into the fray, weaving through the bass and drums conserving his momentum and using their coiled strength to embolden his own playing. When he finally launches forward, he spools out long circular ribbons of saxophone sounding clean but with a hint of grit to them. “Disambiguation” allows the group to use a snippet of an earlier theme and then immediately deconstruct it with exciting ideas and variations in their improvisations through a medium tempo with excellent bass and drum playing. Royston and August are a superb team that is fascinating to listen to throughout the album. With no disrespect intended toward Orrin Evans who is an excellent musician, it is clear that JD Allen is at his finest when challenged by the open vistas of the trio format. He rises to the occasion and with wonderful bass and drum support, creates a fine album. Graffiti -

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