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December 2002

J.D. Allen Quartet/Quintet
Pharoah's Children
Criss Cross Jazz

Perhaps the title should be Wayne's Children. Tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen, 29, owes much of his sound and conception to Wayne Shorter. Still, he's more interesting than many of his Coltrane-, Gordon- and Rollins-influenced contemporaries.

On the opening "Our Man Revis" (for the session's bassist, Eric Revis), Allen is light, speechlike and fluid. Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, his front-line partner, shows a Wynton Marsalis and Miles Davis influence. Pelt appears on two other cuts, with the ensemble sound reminiscent of Davis' mid-'60s quintet. The remaining tracks belong to Allen and the rhythm section: Revis, pianist Orrin Evans and drummer Gene Jackson.

One pleasing aspect of this album is that the players actually appear to think during their solos, thus avoiding the headlong plunge into scholastic licks and run-on phrases. They take their time and leave space. There's thoughtful abstraction by Allen and Evans during their solos on "The Annex," a ballad by the leader. Evans plays off the time well on Allen's "The Bitter Pill." The entire group shows the extent to which it has absorbed the innovations of Ornette Coleman on another Allen tune, "Mr. O.E."

Allen has worked with Frank Foster's big band, Wallace Roney, Betty Carter, Winard Harper and Cindy Blackman. Perhaps his stints with Carter and the drummers sharpened his sense of time and comfort with the rhythm section. On Pharoah's Children, Allen plays in and around his accompanists not over them.

Originally published in December 2002
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