Village Vanguard; Tue 11–Aug 16
Photograph: Johnny Miller
When John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, symbiotic tenor-sax rivals during the late ’50s and early ’60s, issued their respective live recordings from the Village Vanguard, they left monuments that aspiring players have had to contend with ever since. Rollins appeared there in a trio with just bass and drums; now JD Allen will follow that daunting example in his own auspicious Vanguard debut.
A 36-year-old Detroit native and a New Yorker since 1993, Allen isn’t one to be paralyzed by precedent. He learned the ropes with Betty Carter, Frank Foster and Wallace Roney, and he’s blossomed into one of the more sure-footed saxophonists of his peer group. From the start, with In Search Of… (1999) and Pharoah’s Children (2002), he has prioritized original material, a practice he continues on his two Sunnyside trio discs, I Am I Am and the new Shine! The tracks on these recordings average a very un-Coltraneish three to four minutes, yet they convey a sense of thorough, fearless exploration and album-spanning narrative.
The tenor-trio field has grown more crowded of late (Donny McCaslin’s Recommended Tools, Jerome Sabbagh’s One Two Three, Marcus Strickland’s Idiosyncrasies). Yet Allen’s group has arrived at its own sound, marked by volcanic out-of-tempo musings, darting swing permutations and tight, cyclical harmonic patterns. Joining Allen will be Gregg August, a classically trained bassist and an ambitious jazz composer in his own right, and Rudy Royston, a recent arrival from Denver, who has backed the likes of Bill Frisell and Ron Miles.—David R. Adler
Time Out New York / Issue 723 : Aug 6–12, 2009