Tuesday, June 28, 2016

JD Allen - Americana - Musings on Jazz and Blues (Savant, 2016)

The trio format is perfect for saxophonist JD Allen, especially when accompanied by longstanding accomplices Gregg August on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. Their songs are concise and controlled, but the improvisations taken by both soloists and the trio as a whole are stretching the format, developing their ideas by deep listening and bold playing which makes for a very determined and compelling group sound. The opener, “Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil,” begins Allen’s examination of the blues with a humid, close feel as his saxophone gracefully moves through the air supported by rolling drums and think bass. Allen’s saxophone develops a deep alluvial sensibility that works well in the open space created by the trio format, and the band as a whole is patient and understated. “Another Man Done Gone” goes even deeper with serious toned bowed bass and skittering percussion that develops a tense atmosphere. Allen’s subtle saxophone cultivates a bruised and haunted tone, and he leads the band into a pained and yearning improvised conclusion. There is an unhurried medium tempo that carries “Cotton” before Allen’s saxophone breaks out to survey the scene. He begins to solo aided by elastic bass and shimmering drums to advance an exploration of the terrain and a complete a fine solo statement. Royston’s drums move very well, he is supporting the band’s music while continuously seeking out new rhythms and accents to add to the music. There is some uneasy sounding saxophone moving through the thicket of percussion on “Sugar Free” and it leads to a fine improvised section. The music is fast and exciting, with furious drumming driving things forward, in tandem with stoically taut bass. August is given a well-deserved solo spot, which he articulates beautifully then leads the band back together for the finale. “Lightnin’” has fast bass and drums with robust saxophone playing moving the music forward dramatically. Royston is excellent, dropping the music into a tight swinging feel before relaxing the beat and opening up new vistas for the musicians to enter. “Lillie Mae Jones” ends the album splendidly with the band crashing in at full throttle with wide-open stimulating saxophone, bass and drums weaving state of the art modern jazz. JD Allen is at his most formidable when playing in this longstanding trio, where the compositions are memorable and the musicianship is at a truly rarified level. This is another golden entry in a string of great albums that Allen has been racking up over the past decade, and modern mainstream jazz fans should not pass on it. Americana - Musings on Jazz and Blues - amazon.com

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