Tenor saxophonist JD Allen's output on Savant Records has been steady since his 2012 album The Matador and the Bull, and this beautiful and intensely interesting ballads album is an assured milestone in his career to date. There are patented JD-isms: that almost operatic-like swoon and smear of tone; deconstructed themes full of non-linearity and melodic asides arriving unforeseen.
As in all of Allen's recordings, there is also a spare Chopin-like quality, with a shadowy, crepuscular character to much of the material. An album made up entirely of ballads requires a first-rate harmonic foundation and guitarist Liberty Ellman once again proves himself to be the most sensitive of accompanists, alternating between full harmonic richness and skittering, almost pointillistic lines which merely hint at the harmonies.
The depth of Allen's timbre and phrasing is such that the absence of a keyboard is not really felt, and his quartet proves again that it is one of the most highly accomplished small groups in contemporary jazz.
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