Toys / Die Dreaming
JD Allen blows the tenor sax with the clean warmth of Dexter Gordon and the wild abandon of John Coltrane. Allen has, across the last two decades, racked up 14 albums as a leader and sided with plenty of great players too (I remember first coming across his name as one of the pistons that fired the band Cindy Blackman Santana would lead in and around her time hitting the skins for Lenny Kravitz).
He makes Coltrane-esque music (certainly album opener, a muscular rendition of You’re My Thrill, will give you that impression) but he is working the trio format more closely aligned to great sax-men like Ornette Coleman and Sonny Rollins. Again, there’s so much of Sonny in his sound – in that warmth and in the balladry particularly (Toys).
But also a big part of what is driving these comparisons comes down to this new trio he’s leading. Second time out for them as a group together, here again Allen is leading drummer Nic Cacioppo (so much of the Elvin Jones rolling/tumbling feel is wrapped up in his striking attack) and bassist Ian Kenselaar (there’s something of Jimmy Garrison in his sound). Garrison and Jones were of course the rhythm section for Coltrane in his classic quartet. By the time that group made A Love Supreme together they’d already knocked out eight other albums, many of them must-haves too. This trio has only been together about a year, only recorded together twice and the work here is simply astonishing. And A Love Supreme is the early touchstone for me – interplay-wise – as You’re My Thrill bucks from the gate. But it’s also the Coltrane band of Ballads and Impressions that I hear on I Should Care – where the brushes sit softly swishing beneath the deep moan of the bass and never in the way of the waft of the sax; closing track Elegua (The Trickster) brings back the stabbing sound of Coltrane’s quartet when firing deep blasts. Cacioppo doing all the rolling and so much of the tumbling too across cymbals and toms, Kenselaar’s bass moving deftly to bridge any conversational gaps between the drums and the sax. Allen of course just out front charging through to bring it on home. This is a super-great modern post-bop set from a trio that’s absolutely on fire and playing only the A-game.
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