|Tenor saxophonist JD Allen|
The jazz saxophonist JD Allen said in a recent Q&A with a popular jazz blog that whenever he plays Detroit, his hometown, he’s nervous as hell because you can’t bullshit Detroit jazz fans. When a jazz band hits the D, the band has to come hard with an all-out blue collar work ethic. Sunday, evening at Cliff Bell’s, Allen’s trio swung with all their might for two awe-inspired sets. If Allen was nervous, it was impossible to tell. Allen came home in part to push his fantastic new album “Americana Musings On Jazz and Blues” out last month on Savant Records and hailed by many jazz critics and jazz bloggers as Allen’s most formidable recording to date. Allen treated the packed house not only to cuts from “Americana” but also a variable sampling from his prodigious catalogue. If there was one disappointment, it was the absence of Allen’s longstanding running buddies bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston. However, the backup Allen hired drummer Jonathan Barber, and bassist Joseph Lepore were terrific replacements. The musicians played their asses completely off both sets, particularly Barber who struck the drums with bolts of lightning, it seemed, instead of drumsticks. Barber was drumming with such fury during the first set I wondered if he’d have enough gas left to get through the second set. Obviously, Allen has an affinity for Barber ferocious style of drumming. It’s just a matter of time before Allen has Barber on the payroll full time. The trio played for one-hour and fifteen minutes straight the first set before coming up for air. They let the audience ears cool down by playing the ballad “Stardust”. The second set was equally awe-inspiring as the first. It was a smart move having the concert Sunday evening instead of a Friday or Saturday evening when Cliff Bell’s is so noisy it’s hard to enjoy the jazz. People in attendance came out to experience one of the top jazz saxophonist blowing on the planet these days, and Allen’s performance was epic.