Sunday, 23 December 2012

Review: JD Allen Trio - Victory!

Review #1 was a classic, so we thought we'd go with something more contemporary for #2. So here it is, 'Victory!' from one of the very best tenor sax players out there right now, JD Allen.

Album number three for JD Allen’s trio, with this being his fifth overall as leader, and if previous offerings hadn’t already convinced of the tight groups superior musicality, then ‘Victory!’ surely is just that – a winningly melodic and exhilaratingly unique statement that highlights both its leaders crystal clear focus and his ultimately warm and growing charm.

While many would like to make easy comparisons between Allen and famous looming shadows like John  Coltrane, or perhaps more so Sonny Rollins (who for many near-almost owns the sax-bass-drums trio format), they would be entirely wrong. Throughout ‘Victory!’ Allen plays with lean muscularity and keeps things direct, favouring an album made up of a larger number of concise pieces, with most falling under the four minute mark and many even coming in less than three minutes.

His cohorts too, bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston, play with muscle and skill, and keep things punchy and brief. But most importantly all three men work together brilliantly to form one very tight and deftly musical group. Each player contributes their individual personalities to the group effort and help ensure that each statement delivers a clear intense burst before moving onto something else new.

Here we get sheer unadulterated swing, more groove-based numbers and even some Eastern-leaning sounds that all reference some of the best of the past tradition but makes it all the trio’s own. Best of all though, we get a superb line in thick smokily seductive mood music that’s sure to become his signature sound – or at least one of many.

Crucially too, Allen’s two strongest assets are here in absolute abundance; his skillful and hook-laden writing, and that big beautiful tenor tone. And they gel together here perfectly.

Many artists, and especially those in the jazz field, often enjoy changing or developing their sound through reconfiguring, expanding or even shrinking their line-ups, and while that can frequently yield strong results, sometimes it does the exact opposite. The best developments though can sometimes be the ones that come through evolving and enriching a proven formula. And that is what Allen is clearly doing here. His most-favoured unit has developed, and continues to build a unique identity that has only gone from strength to strength and surely will only get better with time. Without a doubt ‘Victory!’ is the strongest offering yet from one of the strongest players out there right now.


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