In the mid eighties, the mighty Joe Henderson released two live albums entitled The State of the Tenor (Vols. 1 and 2). Two decades later, the profound and powerful Detroit-born, New York-based tenor saxophonist/bandleader JD Allen, undoubtedly the most accomplished and ubiquitous saxophonist on the scene - as evidenced by his own projects and his work with everyone from Betty Carter and Meshell Ndegeocello, to classical violinist Nigel Kennedy has released his outstanding Sunnyside debut, I Am I Am; a pianoless trio date that picks up where Henderson left off, and further establishes Allen as the Tenor of our Time.<br><br>With his engaging and inventive bandmates bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston, Allen has delivered a masterpiece, consisting of ten selections that are not merely tunes, tracks or songs; they are concise and compellingly crafted vehicles constructed by the leader to go where few trios have gone before. I've been playing with Gregg and Rudy for a year and a half now, Allen says, from day one, I feel that the common ground between us has always been SOUND, MELODY and FEELING. With or without a piano, the melody, form and chord structure still exist. The challenge is to play honest and to really say who I AM. <br><br>It is evident on this CD that Allen has met and exceeded that challenge. The aural evidence of his gifts are crystal clear: A huge, broad tone, expressed in an uncommon lyrical logic, with an unstoppable sense of swing. The title track leads off the disc with a reverent overture-like tone parallel to John Coltrane s Alabama. On The North Star Allen s light-speed solo points the way to up, while Royston does his own drum thing, shifting tempos with ease. Hajile is a three-way, syncopated sance, contrasted by the three-meter feel of Titus and Pagan. Louisada and Ezekiel are Latin-tinged, freedom-jazzed dances. Allen s Maghreb-moded tenor cries on Id and The Cross + the Crescent Sickle take the listener on an adventurous, improvisational carpet ride, steered by August s bowed basslines and Royston s hip-notic drumming. Othello is a twilight-toned piece, where Allen s mournful sound rings with the Moor s regret. <br><br> I think the one thing that all of the compositions have in common is the fact that all of the melodies are singable, says Allen, and that each point is made up front and center, meaning that the purpose for having short melodies was to get to the arc of each of these pieces right away; in other words hit and run.
I Am I Am
Sunny Side Records
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