• Impressions of Rashied Ali

    August 13, 2009. Posted by Joshua Jackson.


    Sad news to report.  Rashied Ali has died.  Information is spare, but it has been confirmed on his website.

    I can remember first hearing Rashied like many jazz lovers - by consuming vast amounts of the recorded legacy of John Coltrane.  I followed Trane to the end, including every note that followed the dissolution of the famous quartet with McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones.  Rashied Ali joined the group, and Elvin Jones was quick to depart.  That made Rashied the go-to guy for Trane, and they really created some amazing music together.  I  wore out the Coltrane/Ali duet recording, Interstellar Space when I was in college.  I simply could not fathom how two people created so much sound.

    Fast forward to June 24, 2004.  I was the producer for a live broadcast from Sounds of the City, an outdoor concert series presented by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.  The first of three acts we recorded that day was a duet with saxophonist Sonny Fortune and drummer Rashied Ali.  Meeting them both for the first time was one thing, but it's the concert that I'll never forget.  It's one song - Coltrane's "Impressions," and it lasts for 55 minutes.  We broadcast it live on WBGO.  Click the button above to hear it.  It was 5pm, right at the beginning of our drivetime.  I think that if I had a car that day, I would have driven around the city until the song was over, because both of these gentlemen were so heavily invested in the music.  That's something I hope anyone can appreciate - a life dedicated to music.  I'll miss you, Rashied.

  • JD Allen Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard

    August 12, 2009. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Archived video and chat below.

  • JD Allen Trio: Live At The Village Vanguard

    August 12, 2009. Posted by WBGO.

    JD Allen. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    When tenor saxophonist JD Allen performed with his trio at the Village Vanguard on Wednesday night, he knowingly ran up against history's shadow. The honor of fronting the first official album recorded live at the Vanguard — and still one of the greatest — belongs to Sonny Rollins, who ventured into the Greenwich Village basement club in 1956 with two different lineups of saxophone, bass and drums. It was somewhat unusual instrumentation, especially for its day, but those tapes remain exemplars of flexibility, freedom and driving swing.

    It's a lot for Allen's own trio to live up to. But if his last two albums, I AM, I AM and Shine!, are any indication, that group has both the gusto and the gumption to deliver. WBGO and NPR Music were at the Village Vanguard to present the JD Allen Trio in a live on-air broadcast and online video webcast.

    Recorded with bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston, Allen's new Shine! takes an intriguing approach to songcraft. Allen's tunes aren't catchily melodic: They're based on simple forms, fragmentary themes, open-ended motifs. But that suits Allen's communicative trio well: Because the musicians are all ferociously creative players, improvisation blends seamlessly into scripted design, and tension swells and releases in noisy yet soothing resolutions. The songs are planned as relatively compact, all clocking in under six minutes (and often much shorter), and the vignette model packs the riches into dense, fleshy fillets. Allen rides the clattering waves: His tenor is capable of bruising workouts, though he often eschews them in search of round, sincere beauty.

    Allen is a product of the modern Detroit scene, though he's spent the majority of his musical maturity in New York. Serving under luminaries like Lester Bowie, Betty Carter and Jack DeJohnette — and maintaining an ongoing stint in drummer Cindy Blackman's quartet — helped to increase his profile. But he's come on especially strong with two releases in the last two years, both featuring his working chordal-instrument-less trio.

    More than 50 years later, the format Sonny Rollins popularized favors the bold, resourceful musician who has absorbed the lessons of the last half-century in jazz. Allen isn't alone in that camp: The last few years have produced a small surge in excellent saxophone trio recordings. But at the Village Vanguard, where the yardstick was set in the first place, his trio will argue its claim to the unofficial historical register.

    Set List

    • "Shine" (Allen)
    • "Pagan" (Allen)
    • "The North Star" (Allen)
    • "The Laughing Bell" (Allen)
    • "Id" (Allen)
    • "Angel" (Allen)
    • "Conjuration of Angles" (Butch Morris)
    • "Stardust" (Carmichael)
    • "Titus" (Allen)
    • "Sonhouse" (Allen)
    • "East Boogie" (Allen)
    • "Ezekiel" (Allen)
    • "Se'Lah" (Allen)
    • "Shine/Ready for Rudy" (Allen)


    • JD Allen, tenor saxophone
    • Gregg August, bass
    • Rudy Royston, drums


    • Josh Jackson, host and producer
    • David Tallacksen, mix engineer
    • Josh Webb, recording assistant