JD Allen Trio | Constellation | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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click to enlarge JD Allen

JD Allen

courtesy the artist

When: Fri., Dec. 16, 8:30 p.m. 2016
Price: $15, $10 in advance
Few sets I heard at this year’s Chicago Jazz Festival got my pulse racing like the one tenor saxophonist JD Allen delivered with his crack trio—it was a sprint that swung like mad and illustrated his ability to both embrace a hallowed hard-bop tradition and deftly extend it. During that performance and on his fantastic recent album Americana: Musings on Jazz and Blues (Savant), Allen digs into the source of so much American music, deploying the elemental I-IV-V chord pattern—though he routinely lays it down in different bar configurations. He lassos a wide array of sounds, whether country or Delta blues, and while the album is rooted in the most basic hard-bop language, it conveys the spirit and feel of folk music. Working with the agile and spry rhythm section of bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston (see Thursday), Allen applies his full-bodied tone to find new wrinkles in the approach of Sonny Rollins despite not sounding much like him, tearing apart Rollins’s attractive, deceptively simple melodies, working them over, reconfiguring certain phrases, and recombining parts. Allen’s rapport with his band—which keeps up with the hard-charging improvisations, bobbing and weaving along with every feint—deserves much of the credit for the music’s potency, but for me there’s something almost alchemical in how he makes the most basic forms and traditions sound like the most exciting things in the world, delivering performances that remind why I fell in love with jazz in the first place. Tonight James Gaiters subs for Royston.
— Peter Margasak
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