Reviews and Recommended Jazz by Nick Bewsey

Tag: JD Allen

JD Allen, Americana: Musings On Jazz and Blues

JD Allen, an authoritative saxophonist who plays with a distinct Coltrane vibe, makes consistently great albums, most in a trio setting. Americana: Musings On Jazz and Blues (Savant) is a passion project that’s rich and affecting, and it’s likely Allen’s best. His seven originals (and two others) are steeped in tradition yet filtered through Allen’s progressive interpretation of the form. His horn sports a vintage sound on “Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil,” testifying over a loping, walking bass line and the kind of busy, talking-book percussion Elvin Jones used to back Trane with. Having worked on previous records with bassist Gregg August and the jubilant drummer Rudy Royston, the trio plays as a tight, free-flowing unit with endlessly inventive phrasing. Allen’s stories are a mix of hard truths (a sobering 1930s standard “Another Man Done Gone”) and good times –“Lightnin” swings brightly, as persuasive a blues dance track as it can be. Notably, this deftly engineered album is recorded up-close and personal, which gives the music a warm, vivid intimacy. (9 tracks; 45 minutes)


A jazz musician who lists influences as diverse as Muddy Waters, Steve Reich and Green Day is somebody I’d like to hear from and pianist/composer Lisa Hilton doesn’t disappoint, delivering a whiz-bang listening experience on Kaleidoscope, a mostly peaceful album of uncommon pleasure. The California-based bandleader distinguishes her 16th recording with open, airy compositions that are richly lyrical and deliciously ripe for interpretation by a trio that includes bassist Larry Grenadier and the astonishingly inventive drummer, Marcus Gilmore. They dig into an accessible playlist (“When I Fall In Love”) with quiet intensity, especially saxophonist J.D. Allen who guests on three tracks, including the edgy opener, “Simmer.” A tenor player with an admirable solo career, Allen is a majestic player with a big, naturalistic sound you could listen to all day. Hilton has a gifted ear for fresh interlocking melodies (“Sunny Side Up”) and repeated motifs that compels the allegiance of both her band and listeners. Sonically, the recording is superior with a resounding depth due to engineer James Farber and mix by Al Schmidt (Diana Krall). With Hilton at the helm of a Steinway D, all her guys help give her music a glorious presentation. (11 tracks; 50 minutes)


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