J.D. Allen: Americana, Volume 2

The saxophonist's quartet with guitarist Charlie Hunter conveys sincere emotion without recourse to histrionics


J.D. Allen attracts but a fraction of the marketing money lavished upon lesser talents on the contemporary jazz scene but his music is more substantial than a lot of that produced by his peers. This indicates that a lot of what money there is hardly qualifies as smart.

The programme of nine Allen originals plus an Eddy Arnold / Cindy Walker composition and something from the public domain goes deep into the titular subject, and this substance is echoed in no small part by Charlie Hunter’s guitar contributions, which are the work of a musician closely attuned to the underlying aims.

The brevity of A Mouthful Of Forevers (on which Hunter doesn’t play) belies the music’s depth at the same time as it calls to mind the rarefied lamentation of Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman. This is more than lip service too, as it’s clear that Allen knows how to ring emotion out of his tenor sax without appealing to any base motive, and in a manner quite dissimilar to Coleman’s.

This World Is A Mean World is the public domain item, and it’s given such a deeply rootsy reading that the listener need not wonder why it’s unattributed. Hunter summons the blues spirits, thankfully without recourse to either overstatement or histrionics, before Allen turns in a solo notable for its economy.

Further sincerity comes in the form of Irene (Mother) where the quartet finds common (and deep) ground, reminding us that in culturally superficial times such as this substance can have an effect bordering on the subversive.

Up South; This World Is A Mean World; The Werk Song; Hammer And Hoe; You Don’t Know Me; Jackie And Johnny; Mickey And Mallory; A Mouthful Of Forevers; The Battle Of Blair Mountain; Irene (Mother); Down South (48.08)
Allen (ts); Charlie Hunter (g); Gregg August (b); Rudy Royston (d). Samurai Hotel Recording Studio, Astoria, New York, 26 January 2022.
Savant SCD 2202