Beneath this tough tenor's exterior rests the most tender of spirits. If you need evidence, just spend some time with Love Stone.
After carving out his rightful place at the apex with a series of brilliant piano-less trio outings focused on pithy originals, saxophonist JD Allen recently felt the winds of change in his horn and his habits. He reached a conclusion that originality may sit not in the song's architect but in its possessor, and he came to an understanding that the most outside experiences may actually be connected to the greatest acts of looking inward. So rather than cast his own pen in a new light again, Allen took to the challenge of investing his strong-willed spirit into a series of time-tested ballads. The results are simply breathtaking.
Working with his acclaimed triofeaturing bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Roystonand rounding out the group with guitarist Liberty Ellman, Allen explores nine vintage titles. He cuts right to the heartboth of song and receiverwhile remaining true to himself in the process. Perhaps his success in navigating these chestnuts is related to his deep immersion in their lyrics. Or maybe it's just a reflection of his signature directness.
Opening with a flowing "Stranger Of Paradise" that, at just over six minutes, stands as the album's longest track, Allen proves that sensitivity buoyed by strength may be the best salve to heal what ails us today and always. The eight tracks that follow continue to make that point without ever treading over flattened ground. With masterful use of space, suggestion, and, of course, sound, Allen and company deliver one masterpiece after anotheran "Until The Real Thing Comes Along" with an after-hours vibe, a "Put On A Happy Face" with a wide beat and artfully incisive Allen and Ellman statements, a "Someday (You'll Want Me To Want You)" that's the musical embodiment of downcast beauty, and a handful of others. There's not a wasted second from start to finish on Love Stone. To say this is a consequential recording would be truth framed in understatement; to call it essential would be far more accurate.
Stranger in Paradise; Until the Real Thing Comes Along; Why Was I Born?; You're My Thrill; Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies; Put on a Happy Face; Prisoner of Love; Someday (You'll Want Me to Want You); Gone With the Wind.