June 8, 2013


Something Else! Interview: JD Allen, Preaching the Word through Music (David Greenberg, 6/02/13, Something Else Reviews)

JD Allen is emerging as one of the most innovative saxophonists of our time. His music, through a masterful use of melody reveals a personal story and an inner quest.

On his new release Grace -- which features Eldar Djangirov (piano), Dezron Douglas (bass), and Jonathan Barber (drums) -- JD uses melody to string together and unify all of the tracks on the album into a cohesive narrative. Each song is heard as a chapter in the story -- a story that describes a life-long pilgrimage of attaining grace. It's about overcoming struggle, oppression, the battle between good and evil, persevering, and the pursuit of truth. Not a single note or breath is wasted and often times, pierces the heart.

His music is art in its truest form: a complete vulnerable and emotional expression of the artist's being.
In this three-part interview, JD Allen and I will explore the symbolism and metaphors in his music, fighting life's battles, and his faith in God. JD shows the same open and genuine nature in these interviews that he has in his music. He holds nothing back and reveals what has become his inner truth ... [...]

DAVID GREENBERG: The song titles on Grace allude to themes such as good versus bad, which is similar to the album The Matador and the Bull. But there also seems to be a progressive journey that is outlined by the titles. For example, Act II (or Side 2) begins with "Detroit," where you grew up, then "Cross Damon," which seems to indicate a struggle -- a falling from grace -- then there seems to be a search and final attainment of something--perhaps it's some kind of truth. So on a broader spectrum, does the album express a broader theme?

J.D. ALLEN: Yeah, there is a broad thing. Well, it's not even broad -- it's narrow -- because if it was broad, then I would probably be a millionaire. (Laughs.) The world likes worldly things -- that's what sells. I mean, sugar -- not to get off the subject but this is an important question -- sugar is a replacement for fruit, but most people eat more sugar than they eat fruit. I like to think of it as a way of preaching without being preachy. I had a discussion with my friend Jaimeo Brown, who is also a believer, and we got into this conversation about it. We all want to spread it, the word, but how do we do it -- and I brought the fact that it's OK if you want to spread the word, but if you look at the New Testament, all the red letters of what Jesus was supposed to say, it's usually in parables if you notice. It's something that you've got to figure out, and fortunately enough the description that he would give his apostles, he would break it down, but if you look at just what he said, it's in a parable. And he said that "those who have ears can hear, those who have eyes can see," so it's not a broad thing, it's just my attempt at trying to preach without being preachy. So that's my take on it. I think that's what I'm supposed to do. I told this other gentlemen that I think initially, when you try to walk the walk, you become a gospel musician, even if you're not playing so-called gospel, but the gospel is to spread the word and the good news, and I try to do that -- I really try. I think this is what I'm supposed to do, so whenever I get an opportunity such as this, I can talk about it. So, it's not broad; it's my attempt at preaching without being preachy.

JD Allen Trio: Live At The Village Vanguard (NPR, August 12, 2009)

The first album recorded live at the Vanguard, and still one of the best, was made by Sonny Rollins' piano-less trio in 1956. Noisy but soothing, simple but dense, tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen's trio is primed to confront jazz history's shadow on its home turf.

Posted by at June 8, 2013 8:01 AM

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