Label: Savant, 2019
Personnel - JD Allen: tenor saxophone; Ian Kenselaar: acoustic and electric bass; Nic Cacioppo: drums.
The incomparable saxophonist JD Allen returns with his 13th album as a leader, this time in the company of two young rhythm stylists who have been playing with the tenor titan for more than a year, bassist Ian Kenselaar and drummer Nic Cacciopo. Barracoon contains 10 tight, tough compositions that confer a wider ampleness to Allen’s improvisatory ground since the style adopted often leans on the avant-garde jazz while retaining the true essence of the blues and Americana spirit.
The title track is an incendiary tour de force that shrinks and expands with bite and insight in the account of the saxophonist’s fully intonated low-pitched notes, whose extraordinary timbre resounds like a cannon. Everything falls on top of the rambunctious swinging tapestry created by bass and drums.
The inspiration for this CD was today’s political fickleness as well as the books Barracoon: The Story of The Last Black Cargo by Zora Neale Hurston and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, whose emotions are directly transferred to “The Immortal (H.Lacks)”. Taking the form of a lachrymose spiritual, naturally rooted in the blues and folk traditions, this tune affiliates with “13” in terms of tone, feeling, and expression. The latter piece dawns with a solo bass statement and dusks after an impactful trio reassembly for an awesome finale.
If “The Goldilocks Zone” thrives on the art of swinging, absorbing the best of tradition but giving it a blatant contemporary flair, “Beyond the Goldilocks Zone” is a tense exercise that concentrates on flying freely with unflappable conviction. Allen’s virtuosity is on display, whether searching for points of energy in brisk phrases or engendering catchy rhythmic figures to be couched and chained with perspicacity.
Kenselaar switches to electric bass on “G sus”, attesting the static backbone with competent fretwork, whereas the drummer rambles freely within the structure. “Ursa Major” also incorporates electric bass, but it's Cacioppo’s crisp drumming that is highlighted both in the concluding solo and before that, in a passage where he interacts with Allen, whose inexhaustible rhythmic ideas take the form of tongue-in-cheek remarks and sincere impulsive cries.
Both “When You Wish Upon a Star”, the standard that concludes the program, and “Communion”, a grooving phenomenon that swings with class, exhibit an effortless lightness of movement. The nature of these songs in association with Allen’s distinctive language will certainly convince possible skeptic fans who might be dealing with some sort of expectation in regard to this new trio venture.
The musicians combine their talents for the first time to powerful effect, demonstrating a ferocious appetite for opening new frontiers.
01 - Barracoon ► 06 - Beyond the Goldilocks Zone ► 07 - Communion