Label: Savant Records, 2018
Personnel – JD Allen: tenor sax; Liberty Ellman: electric guitar; Gregg August: acoustic bass; Rudy Royston: drums.
Boasting a magnificent sound as well as a beautiful, fluid language, tenor saxophonist JD Allen embraces jazz ballads from the past in his new Savant release, Love Stone, the excellent follow up to last year’s Radio Flyer. If there is something about Charles Lloyd in the way he declares “Stranger in Paradise”, a song popularized by Jimmy Smith, then he shows off an effective pitch control in the pure classic tradition of Sonny Rollins on “Until the Real Thing Comes Along”. All those marvelously deep notes are imprinted on our minds, uttered with warm tones and infallible precision. They uplift the spirit. Guitarist Liberty Ellman demonstrates his harmonic competence and melodic sensitivity on both tunes, well backed up by the breathable bass-drums workflow by bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston. The latter musicians have been recording regularly with JD since 2012, while Ellman joined last year.
The bop erudition of “Why Was I Born” reaches a groovy relaxation, renouncing to the fervently swinging incursions of Jackie McLean or the rubato adventures of Coltrane/Burrell, two versions still fresh in my mind. The shimmering brushwork of Royston and the appealing, laid-back posture of August are freaking awesome.
“Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies” is an adorable folk song that advances peacefully with guitar introspection, punctual bass plucks, and mallet drumming. It is followed by the casualness and graceful swinging balance of “Put On a Happy Face”, a composition formerly tackled by such different artists as Oscar Peterson and Stevie Wonder.
“Gone With the Wind” concludes the quartet’s voyage into this magical realm of balladic jazz with a profound, soulful appeal that stems from the unblemished teamwork.
In a quietly revolutionary mode, JD deftly reimagines familiar tunes with a sharp, affective, and pragmatic vision. The pristine glow of his saxophone brings us back the joy of listening to these sweet old songs. Tradition has its place in the modern jazz and this impressive album is probably what your ears have been aching for.
01 - Stranger in Paradise ► 02 - Until the Real Thing Comes Along ► 05 - Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies