JD Allen, Americana Vol 2, Savant *****

For spirituals, the blues and the art of the saxophone in a small group rolling at times like Sonny Rollins what more could you want? Long time JD Allen followers will know after a few listens or pretty much immediately that Americana Vol 2 is far …

Published: 30 Aug 2022. Updated: 28 days.

For spirituals, the blues and the art of the saxophone in a small group rolling at times like Sonny Rollins what more could you want?

Long time JD Allen followers will know after a few listens or pretty much immediately that Americana Vol 2 is far better than Queen City not that that record was at all shabby because among other reasons of the stop the traffic instrumental treatment on the new 'un of the Eddy Arnold and Cindy Walker song of disappointed love 'You Don't Know Me' the title track synonymous with Ray Charles and which works so well.

As noted on marlbank a few weeks ago the JD Allen approach is to converse with the double bass of Gregg August most here and in lapidary lines with guitar boffin Charlie Hunter. And the approach is compelling.

Critics might cavil at the relatively limited palette of the format and that is a reasonable point. But the rebuttal is found in the sequencing and the way the album becomes bluesier the more you journey with it. Bookended by 'Up South' and 'Down South', overall the message music is however quietly stated devastatingly-political aimed through a humane lens the end result a transcendence above the impossibility of this often unjust world.

The best bits are often outrageously slow and laidback while 'Irene' (Mother)' coming before the end is different and so conversational. JD, August, Hunter and the great drummer Rudy Royston (often quite Rod Youngs-like especially on 'Up South') know how to carve out firm roles for themselves and send a message to you that you can immediately absorb.

'The Battle of Blair Mountain' which references a huge labour uprising in Logan County, West Virginia during the early 20th century ''coal wars'' is a scintillating highlight where the fabric of the structures is newly dug out by Hunter. Royston's deft drum rolls provide a serious moment at the beginning of 'A Mouthful of Forevers' underpinned by August's arco line and JD's most serious statement of the whole album.

Royston is the bridge to Bill Frisell's Americana explorations in the same idiom whether overt or not which this album is in solidarity with but stands apart from authorial Friselliana given Allen's own unique vision as a leader. Often moving and deep there is lots of joyful, virtuosic playing too and in this you would be hard pressed to find a better tenor saxophonist anywhere these days - old news but worth repeating - than Allen who refuses to spray the record with superfluous notes, only what are needed.

There isn't time to go into all the tracks. JD is Rollins-like frequently but without any direct Caribbean motific quoting or gracenotes in his sound more in terms of statesman-like composure. But also like Rollins when he keeps it simple there is a lot of resource even when everything seems stripped down. Certainly all in all JD's best album since his classic Bloom (2014).

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Marc Mommaas, The Impressionist, Sunnyside ****

Why make a foray into reviewing The Impressionist? Most reviewers should address their motivation in reviewing anything in the first place before entering that essential fugue state of an enterprise. Without getting too deep in this case it was …

Published: 29 Aug 2022. Updated: 28 days.

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Why make a foray into reviewing The Impressionist? Most reviewers should address their motivation in reviewing anything in the first place before entering that essential fugue state of an enterprise. Without getting too deep in this case it was seeing the name of Gary Versace, the pianist, here first up always a sign of quality when other names are less familiar.

Shoot us but we hadn't come across the tenor/soprano player Marc Mommaas before even though he has been around for a while and comes with a distinguished playing pedigree. Jay Anderson (Zappa, Joe Sample, Red Rodney) on bass though is another matter and is much more familiar. But guitarist Nate Radley again not so much and only a little on our radar via Puzzle People his very listenable-to record that had the great master of Sco know-how Adam Nussbaum and Anderson on it last year and issued by Steeplechase.

Together do these four gel and what else nudged us to review this beyond perusing names on a piece of paper? Yes - and ''the sound'' obviously meaning the immediate impact of a few notes. Just seconds into 'Nostalgia' you know you have to listen further. Ah that Versace connection again as he dominates the opening of the piece. Dutchman Mommaas has a spectacularly soft tone that Anderson does so much to decorate on 'Nostalgia' and Versace likewise on 'Fauré'. If, UK readers, you are a Stan Sulzmann fan especially when Stan plays a ballad you may well dig Mommaas. That's the connection we make as a new listener to his approach. Radley's John Abercrombie-like delicate dance of an introduction on the title track is an album highlight and The Impressionist is stocked full of gorgeous melodies often inspired by classical composer Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) as that earlier track mention more clearly indicated in its overt naming.

Don't worry this isn't an album that is designed as if by robot to appeal to both jazz and classical listeners which isn't always possible or desirable anyway as too many compromises often have to be made.

The original material is strong and the group interplay is sincere. Final thought for you dear reader - what do subjective opinions count for - you may well ask? You might mutter ''nothing''. The reviewers are all ''tin-eared''. Or, softening a tad, ''depends on who is saying it''. We go for gut instinct drawn from such knowledge that we have picked up over the years as listeners. That's it. The rest surely is conversation but it's good to talk long into the night about a record as inspiring as The Impressionist. You may well be doing just that if you make today a Mommaas Monday. Marc Mommaas, top. Photo: press