Saturday, June 10, 2017

JD Allen - Radio Flyer (Savant Records, 2017)

Tenor saxophonist JD Allen releases about one album per year, and it is always an event. There's little fanfare but those in the know wait with baited breath. This year's album has a quartet setting with Allen accompanied by Liberty Ellman on guitar, Gregg August on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. The music revels in the twilight world between the mainstream and the avant-garde, making exploratory jazz that draws from many sources. The opening track "Sitting Bull" has a dark and rich vein of emotion running through it, with deep toned saxophone and free ranging drums framed by guitar and bass. There is a stern feel to the music that begins to lighten as the improvisation takes shape with Allen's raw saxophone lightening ever so slightly and beams of guitar poking through, and leading a fine full band extrapolation. A fine opening for guitar, bass and drums allows the rhythm team makes the most of it. Everyone comes back together at a simmer, directing the music to a carefully considered conclusion. Strong and supple playing lays the groundwork for "Radio Flyer" with stoic saxophone and resonant bowed bass leading the way with humility and maturity. The music is taken at an open-ended mid-tempo, with sparks of guitar providing juxtaposition within the heavy atmosphere. Drums gain in power providing a jumping off point for Allen's saxophone and Ellman's waves of shimmering guitar, and provoking a tight collective improvisation, and a well played guitar solo. "The Angelus Bell" has the trio barreling out of the gate at high speed, and with a lot of mass behind that velocity. The boiling bass and drums support the leader admirably, as quieter guitar accompaniment adds color to the proceedings. There is an opening for the trio with subtle percussion and guitar, slowly rising in intensity for a quick finishing move from Allen. There is a return to medium tempo on "Sancho Panza" featuring some fine and patient bass playing and subtle percussion. The music develops into a dark toned ballad approach with occasional piercing sounds of saxophone. Gentler percussion with brushes and guitar make the most of some open space, then Allen's melancholy saxophone return to guide them to the conclusion. "Herueux" has the band playing at a medium pace, allowing for maximum movement within the music, building to a tight and powerful full group improvisation. The band flexes and moves through their paces in an impressive manner, eventually making way for a well played guitar solo,and  building to a robust improvised section for guitar, bass and drums. A choppy rhythm opens "Deadalus" led by some fine drumming and angular saxophone, coming together for a very interesting quartet improvisation, buoyed by thick bass. Ripe and powerful saxophone surges through the music with touches of guitar and rolling drums keeping pace. There is a nice fluid guitar solo included, and a powerful drum solo. "Ghost Dance" slows things down considerably, with bass and drums laying the groundwork, building in suspense with the addition of a moody guitar line, creating edgy interplay between the musicians. Allen's pinched saxophone startles upon entry, his acidic tone burning through the music that surrounds him, driving the music into further unexplored territory before an abrupt finish. This was another excellent album from JD Allen, who is one of the most consistently capable performers on the modern jazz scene. Each of his albums has been a unique gem, and this is no exception. Radio Flyer -

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