The notion of jazz music being equal measures of construction and deconstruction of musical elements is well heeded. Development of a compatible group of musicians and the assembly of the harmonic and melodic elements to create a tune are both important examples of construction in jazz. Deconstruction can be just as stimulating by subverting elements at will and allowing the musicians the freedom to express themselves without a script. Saxophonist JD Allen has done his best to bridge the gap between the two on his new recording Shine! He has done so by taking his crack trio, featuring bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston, through the paces on not only his well-constructed compositions but also through more open improvisatory passages. Allen s penchant for melody comes through in his compositions and improvisations no matter how far off the beaten path. The trio navigates the music with aplomb and makes Shine! a fantastic addition to JD Allen s growing discography.
Tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen seems like a man out of time. His sensibility is right out of the heyday of '50s and '60s bop. His confident, intense style, and his trio with bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston will - and - should inspire comparisons to Sonny Rollins' groups. Yet despite all this, Allen's approach feels thoroughly modern and fresh. Why? Well, because no one else is doing this today. Above all else, Allen economizes. The songs on Shine!, his trio's second album for Sunnyside, run two to five minutes. Every bar is precious; every note counts.
The 36-year-old plays with the adventure-some spirit of a free-jazzer but the melodic and rhythmic grounding of a bebopper. On tunes like the openers "Esre!" and "Sonhouse," vigorous workouts that segue into each other, the trio's elastic nature evinces itself. Tunes are built on simple melodic underpinnings, but the music is anything but simple. For one thing, no one keeps the time - August and Royston are improvising as much as Allen. In fact, the drummer may be improvising most of all, because we rarely hear the actual rhythm; instead, we feel it below the surface, as each member of the trio surely does. They do this to varying degrees; Royston's drums swing gently , while August patiently builds a bass solo. The rhythm of "Teo," on the other hand, is completely untethered, while more traditional patterns reemerge on "Variation," the two-minute slice of bebop that closes the disc.
- Steve Greenlee --JazzTimes - Oct. 2009