Love Stone (Savant)

JD Allen

Released June 2018

DownBeat Four-and-a-Half-Star Review




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.

Track Listing:

1. Stanger in Paradise (George Forrest / Robert Wright) 06:04

2. Until the Real Thing Comes Along (Sammy Cahn / Saul Chaplin / Mann Holiner / Alberta Nichols) 05:06

3. Why Was I Born (Oscar Hammerstein II / Jerome Kern) 05:25

4. You’re My Thrill (Ned Washington) 05:06

5. Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies (Public Domain) 04:33

6. Put on a Happy Face (Lee Adams / Charles Strouse) 04:58

7. Prisoner of Love (Russ Columbo / Clarence Gaskill / Leo Robin) 04:38

8. Someday (You’ll Want Me to Want You) (Jimmie Hodges) 04:22

9. Gone With the Wind (Herb Magidson / Allie Wrubel) 04:55


JD Allen: tenor saxophone

Liberty Ellman: guitar

Gregg August: bass

Rudy Royston: drums

Recorded January 9, 2018 at Systems Two Recording Studio, Brooklyn, NY

Producer: JD Allen

Recorded and Mastered by Mike Marciano

Assistant Engineer: Andrew Cavaciuti

Photography: Bart Babinski

Design: Rebecca Meek

Executive Producer: Barney Fields


In the long-running debate over whether it’s necessary for instrumentalists to know the words to songs they play, tenorman JD Allen has thrown in with Lester Young. “A musician should know the lyrics of the songs he plays,” was Prez’s opinion, and in the liner notes to Love Stone, Allen agrees, if somewhat elliptically: “True confession: playing the melody while knowing the lyrics is like drinking champagne alone and laughing at yourself all night long.” There’s a lot of champagne being sipped here, as both Allen and guitarist Liberty Ellman keep the melodic content at the heart of these performances. That’s not to say that improvisation gets short shrift—nobody’s going to mistake this album for easy listening—only that its execution intrinsically is linked to the melodic ideas of the song being performed. And it ought to be noted that this is hardly the standard set of Great American Songs, as Allen’s choices range from the well-worn to such relative oddities as the Appalachian ballad “Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies” and the Borodin-derived “Stranger In Paradise.” But the album’s deepest pleasures stem from the luxuriant warmth of Allen’s horn, not necessarily the songs selected for inclusion. It isn’t just that his phrasing is beautifully articulated, ensuring that every pause, emphasis and subtle shading carries the weight of the words he’s mentally intoning; his solos, too, take on a sense of speech, as if they somehow were continuing the lyricist’s train of thought. As such, the mood of the album is utterly enveloping, conjuring enough emotional intensity to leave the listener hanging on every note (or word).

J.D. Considine (DownBeat)