J.D. Allen and Sean Jones highlight a busy weekend for jazz

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J.D. Allen
  • Rebecca Meek
  • J.D. Allen
There's an awful lot of terrific jazz to take in this weekend, with the Hyde Park neighborhood offering up the lion's share of the action. On Saturday and Sunday the eighth installment of the Hyde Park Jazz Fest presents a mind-numbing bounty of riches, with loads of local artists joined by a carefully selected sprinkling of top-flight out-of-towners, but the rest of the city's scene is carrying on as usual, so there are worthwhile shows happening all over town. In this week's paper I wrote a short preview of the Hyde Park event, mentioning some of the highlights, but here I want to draw particular attention to the group led by the excellent New York-based tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen, which plays at the Logan Center for the Arts on Saturday evening.

In recent years Allen—who recently performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival in a band led by bassist Rufus Reid and has been a fixture in the great quintet of trumpeter Jeremy Pelt—has led a nimble, fat-free, hard-swinging trio, but these days he's fronting a quartet with a much different sound. As heard on his latest album, Bloom (Savant), Allen has gravitated toward a more brooding, elliptical approach with a strong jolt of John Coltrane at his most probing—in its shadowy arrangements the group takes clear advantage of the mercurial darkness served up by the remarkable pianist Orrin Evans. Bassist Alexander Claffy and drummer Jonathan Barber are a superb rhythm section, injecting the music with a restless yet unobtrusive tension, the former solidly holding down the changes with a mix of gravity and malleability, while the latter is a veritable whirlwind, playing hyperkinetic patterns that never feel excessive or show-offy but instead give the group a steady source of energy and polyrhythmic grist. On a couple of standards—"Stardust" (on which Allen plays a cappella) and Tadd Dameron's "If You Could See Me Now"—the group displays an elegant, flowing swing feel, with Allen's plush tone and sleek lines epitomizing grace, but on the original material he and his compatriots generally lean toward something more elusive and abstract. Another exception is the brisk "Car-Car (the Blues)," which concludes the album—check it out below.

Over at the Jazz Showcase trumpeter Sean Jones is leading his quartet through Sunday evening. For many years the horn man worked as lead trumpet in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, but he recently decided to focus on leading his own band—something he's done in the past, but mostly during periods of inactivity with Lincoln Center—and the decision was a smart one based on his new album Im.Pro.Vise: Never Seen Before (Mack Avenue), a crackling session that also features pianist Evans along with bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Obed Calvaire. It's a high-energy straight-ahead session with the protean strength and tonal clarity of the trumpeter on full display.

Today's playlist:

Chantal Goya, Féminin: the Complete '60s Recordings (RPM)
Nicholas Daniel, Thea Musgrave: Chamber Works for Oboe (Harmonia Mundi)
The Marquis de Tren and Bonny Billy, Solemns (Drag City/Palace)
David Fulmer, On Night (Tzadik)
Dayna Stephens, That Nepenthic Place (Sunnyside)

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