Look past JD Allen’s propulsiveness as a player and you’ll note that his melodic sense has always leaned toward the concise. Ballads may have seemed previously like tokens on the tenor saxophonist’s hard-driving and exploratory records, but a whole album of them is actually a natural fit for him. Love Stone, recorded with his longtime trio (bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston) and guitarist Liberty Ellman, finds him in his element even as he treads what for him has been a road less traveled.
There’s certainly no shortage of decorative work from Allen. His solo on “Stranger in Paradise” has plenty of ornaments and curlicues, as does “Prisoner of Love”—but they’re asides, the flourishes on the signature. Both improvisations have solid spines and no superfluous parts. Then there are the ones without the trimmings, like the majestic “You’re My Thrill” and the deep-blues “Someday (You’ll Want Me to Want You).”