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JD Allen: Notes of Change

By Published: July 15, 2008
Political Change

AAJ: Moving outside of the album and music specifically, you mentioned already Detroit going through a transition period. "Change" is a powerful word of the moment right now. What does change mean to you?

JDA: Right now, in the political context, I think it's a moment where black Americans, especially black American men, can finally say, "I have no excuse for not becoming the best that I can be." I feel we are putting to rest the blame—and rightfully so sometimes—but the blame of saying I can't do it because the man got me down. I am just so proud of Barak Obama and what he is doing. He is an example of how to [succeed] in the world in a way that includes everyone.

It's amazing what is happening. It's hard to put in words. It is easier to put into music. I am so happy to be living now, because the music and the art that is going to happen now is going to be fucking amazing!

Even five years ago you never would have asked me that question about politics in an article! And I am elated that you asked me that.

AAJ: Do you think Obama really represents a dramatic change for African-Americans?

JDA: I think because of what Obama is doing, it's the first time in this country where we can all say that we are all American. This is the first time—you can look at an Obama convention and see people of all colors and hues coming together for the common good of everybody... I am so happy. It is good to hear hope in the air.

AAJ: You sound optimistic.

JDA: I am. I am. I can now understand why we went through the seven years of turmoil with the current president we have now. Because out of that has come this hope.

We are seeing history being made. I'll tell you how into it I got, I volunteered. I got on a 25 dollar Chinese bus and rode down to Philadelphia to go door to door to say vote for Obama. And I was so proud to do it because I had my little part in history.

AAJ: Coming back to the album, there are examples there of great leaders. It sounds like you believe we are in a period where we have a great leader.

JDA: I believe so. I feel that we are in that period. It is a period of seriousness. Even in the music. Whereas in the '90s it was about smooth edges and craftsmanship, now people want it to hang out a little more. When you go to a museum and see the African art, the sharp angles the pointed lines. The music is more about that now. It's a radical point in history. There's electricity everywhere and I hope I capture that in my music.

AAJ: There are so many issues that are coming to a head right now.

JDA: It is very radical. Not being political for political's sake, but I think we as musicians can express that and want to express that—and the people are hungry for it.

AAJ: Music has always has always been a part of those kinds of transitional moments in history. You can go through any period of radical change and find that people needed the music and used it as a tool.

JDA: I am sure there is a shift in all art...I am sure there is something going on everywhere because it is in the air. There is something happening, and I want to be a part of that.

Selected Discography

JD Allen, I AM-I AM (Sunnyside, 2008)

Gerald Cleaver, Gerald Cleaver's Detroit (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2008)

Cindy Blackman, Music for the New Millenium (Sacred Sound, 2004)

Orrin Evans, Easy Now (Criss Cross, 2005)

JD Allen, Pharoah's Children (Criss Cross, 2002)

Russell Gunn, Blue on the D.L. (High Note, 2002)

Duane Eubanks, Second Take (TCB, 2001)

JD Allen, In Search Of... (Red, 1999)

Winard Harper, Winard (Savant, 1999)

Bob Belden, Shades of Blue (Blue Note, 1994)

Photo Credit

Frank Stewart

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