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On "Let Me Tell You 'Bout It," JD Allen Discusses His New Creative Zeal, and a Solo Sax Album on the Horizon

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Bart Babinski
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Welcome to a new conversation series called "Let Me Tell You 'Bout It," airing weekly on Jazz After Hours. The series title, borrowed from baritone saxophonist Leo Parker's album, captures the sentiment of players and singers sharing wisdom — about their artistic process, their creative expression, and how they navigate the world as we slowly begin the "new normal." Tune in every Tuesday in the 2 a.m. hour for a brief excerpt of our chat, and find the full-length version here at wbgo.org.

Our first conversation is with saxophonist, composer and bandleader JD Allen.

Let Me Tell You 'Bout It: JD Allen

JD Allen's musical output closely mirrors his research, growth and progress as a human being. Particularly, in his evolving adaptation of the language of the blues, he continues to distinguish himself as a composer and as a player. Working primarily in the context of bass and drums over the last several years, he has managed to move his sound around to accentuate an earthiness — resulting in an excitement and folksiness sometimes absent in this instrumentation. There are angles in his sound, but also a refreshing accessibility. His most recent release, Toys/Die Dreaming, is a good example. His music sounds just as at home in the concert halls or in the clubs.

As Allen has had many moments to be introspective during the pandemic, he reveals that his motivation for playing is not tied to being onstage. He shares that advice — from legends such as Sun Ra and John Gilmore and players like James Carter and Branford Marsalis — has taken on new significance. In quarantine, he has been sharing more about his life experiences, and he co-founded an online resource and arts activist group for anti-racism and independently-run performance opportunities.

JD Allen Queen City

Confronted with the reality of isolation and what he could capture for his next recording, Allen shares that he had to honor the moment in spirit and in truth. To that end, he boldly stepped into the studio - sans accompaniment - and captured a few choice standard tunes, plus several melodic ideas that were waiting for the right time to be revealed. Allen will share those expressions this summer on the album, Queen City (High Note/Savant).