JD Allen's growth as an artist has been exponential with Grace as his crowing achievement!
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
JD Allen burst on to the scene as one of the new young lions with references to the next Sonny Rollins made. An improvisational minimalist with an eclectic lyrical fury, JD Allen goes about his business in a quiet almost workman like fashion. Be it as a leader or sideman, JD Allen has arrived. Some would say that Allen has already arrived yet his recorded works while impressive from the start show a measured and consistent growth as you move through the discography.
The Sonny Rollins comparisons may be close as Allen seems to work the lyrical happy place found somewhere between Rollins and John Coltrane but with his own organic presentation. A young lion indeed, JD Allen is fierce. With Grace we have an expanded ensemble to include pianist Eldar Djangirov who may well be Allen's musical soul mate. The new rhythm section includes bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Jonathan Barber that add a fresh pop of rhythmic intensity. Djangirov provides gritty counterpoint and runs that compliment the lyrical playbook of Allen. Highlights here are plenty with "Detroit" topping the list, a smoldering blues played with a level of sophistication that many of his contemporaries have tried to find for twenty years but have rolled the proverbial doughnut. The ballad "Selah" is a unique showcase for pianist Djangirov and runs counter to the more edgy "Mass" that opens the release.
As good as Grace is, the most exciting aspect may well be the next release. Taste is of course subjective but in terms of the perfect recording, you have to give it to him!
Tracks: Mass; Lode Star; Chagall; Luke Sky Walker; Grace; Detroit; Cross Damon; Pole Star; Papillon 1973; Selah; The Little Dipper.