Americana: Musings on Jazz and Blues (Savant Records Inc)

JD Allen

Released May 20, 2016

JazzTimes Top 10 Albums of 2016




This is tenor saxman and composer JD Allen’s tenth album as a leader and his fifth consecutive project for Savant. Once again, his regular sidemen for the past eight years, bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston, are back on board. Eight years is a pretty impressive stint for any band to put in together, especially in the jazz world and the ensemble work reflects the familiarity of the players, presenting a series of friendly obstacle courses hinged on spontaneous and collective choice-making. Allen’s playing sometimes murmurs, and other times rises to a heartfelt cry, but he never abandons himself to free jazz screaming, or tangles himself up with knuckle-busting ribbons of notes. His phrases have a deep blues feeling, and his compositions are built around concise, memorable melodies which he repeats until they’ve sunk deep into the listener’s memory. But whether he is looking back to the earliest forms of America’s home-grown music or pointing the way to its future, JD Allen never fails to challenge and engage the listener as few of his generation can.

Track Listing:

1. Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil 6:45

2. Another Man Done Gone 5:55

3. Cotton 5:46

4. Sugar Free 5:40

5. Bigger Thomas 4:13

6. Americana 4:47

7. Lightnin’ 5:43

8. If You’re Lonesome, Then You’re Not Alone 2:39

9. Lillie Mae Jones 3:26


JD Allen: tenor saxophone

Gregg August: bass

Rudy Royston: drums

Recorded January 2, 2016, at Tedesco Studios

Producer: JD Allen

Executive-Producer: Joe Fields

Engineer: Tom Tedesco

Mastered by Katsuhiko Naito

Photography by Frank Stewart

Cover Design: Rebecca Meek


As its subtitle suggests, saxophonist-composer JD Allen’s Americana has a distinctly personal slant. Nevertheless, this collection of trio performances, mostly inspired by Allen’s writing, is multifaceted and richly hued. The pieces reflect a wide variety of blues and jazz traditions as well as pivotal connections, beginning with the reedman’s evocative “Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil.” Here Allen adroitly conjures the sound of early rural-blues guitarists who made a habit of introducing tunes with a descending turnaround in thirds or sixths before reaching the tonic chord and embarking on a series of 12-bar choruses. Nearly all of the tunes on Americana follow a harmonically skeletal outline, but as the album unfolds it becomes clear that Allen and his sessionmates are painting on a broad canvas, spacious enough to accommodate a colorful tapestry of sounds and moods.
The latter encompass a sublimely soulful interpretation of Bill McHenry’s “If You’re Lonesome, Then You’re Not Alone” and an expansive, emotionally cathartic rendering of Vera Hall’s vintage hit “Another Man Done Gone.” Bassist Gregg August’s arco lyricism and shadings are particularly expressive, and the support he and drummer Rudy Royston provide Allen never fails to inspire him or enhance the album’s power and allure. As a result, listeners needn’t be familiar with Hall’s place in blues history or recognize Ornette Coleman’s intermittent influence to appreciate the deep resonance Allen and company bring to Americana.

Mike Joyce (JazzTimes)