Wednesday, July 13, 2011

JD Allen: Victory!

JD Allen (sax)
Victory! (Sunnyside Records; 2011)
Rudy Royston (drums)
Gregg August (bass)

I don't own a lot of JD Allen records but after this truly astounding effort I really have to do some more record shopping this weekend. Victory!, JD Allen's third album for Sunnyside Records (fifth overall) is a shinning piece of brilliance that celebrates the unity of his trio that has been together for five years. 

The compositions on Victory! are big, bold and definitely ambitious. There are shades of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders for those not familiar with his material but you soon become absorbed in the direction of Allen's compositions and you realize he has his own voice and vision. Allen's choice of working specifically in the trio format for the last few years definitely makes his unit stand above some of the other trios (mainly utilizing the piano, bass, drums lineup) currently on the scene today.

"Victory!," opens the session in meditative fashion with Royston and August slowly building up the tone for Allen to burst into with exuberance upon the mountain top. It's a melodic piece that feels like a funeral march but it's a celebration of life and all of one's victories over adversity. It's a contemplative but gritty tone that should have everyone stopping what their doing and focusing inward.

Victory! circles around many motifs but one that is omnipresent is that of Eastern thought. "Sura Hinda" will definitely have you in a more spiritual mode as Allen illustrates his complex and reflective writing style. Allen is matched perfectly by Royston's bombastic movements on drums and the low level strumming from August that evokes moments of spirituality to most listeners.

"Motif" while extremely short, has a steady, muscular bounce. The band cuts loose in a post bop manner with a hard melody and some very crisp passages. All of this is rolled together in just under three minutes. It's striking, blissful and leaves you begging for more. "Mr. Steepy" is joyful and full of bop sensibilities that, while reminiscent of that influential era, still manages to deliver a present-day attitude and energy that is looking and searching for the future.

The JD Allen Trio never seems to overshadow each other. A really great sign of a group that has been together a long time. Allen's thinking and writing continues to grow on the records that I've listened to and he is definitely one the brightest new talents of this young century. Let's hope his work in the trio format stays for a long time to come. Victory! is one of those superior records you must experience.

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