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JD Allen: Grace

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Tenor saxophonist JD Allen sounds different on Grace-less muscular, more introspective. But while he’s not as aggressive as he has been over his last several albums, he’s playing with just as much confidence. After four records in a sax-bass-drums trio, he’s added a pianist-Eldar Djangirov, no less-to the group. And he’s playing a bit longer. Whereas he kept most of his performances under four minutes on his previous albums, on Grace he lets the band go for five-plus on most tracks.

This doesn’t mean he’s abandoned his theory of jazz economy. Less is still more with Allen. He’ll play two notes where other musicians would play four, and he sits out plenty in order to listen to Djangirov ruminate. But Allen has got something more than songs on his mind with Grace, and it’s spelled out in David Michael Greenberg’s meticulous liner notes: This project tells a story, in two acts, a narrative built around the human journey. But being aware of it is not essential to enjoying the music.

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