J D Allen – Americana – Musings On Jazz And Blues – Savant SCD 2155,  44:54 ****:

 The album is an adventure into America’s musical past.

(J D Allen – tenor saxophone; Gregg August – bass; Rudy Royston – drums)

The combination of musicians that J D Allen brought together for his look at musical culture called Americana: Musings On Jazz And Blues brings to mind another seminal recording done in 1957 by tenor saxophone Sonny Rollins entitled Way Out West, that included bassist Ray Brown and drummer Shelly Manne. Although both discs have similar instrumentation,  Rollins is focused on the popular music tradition, while Allen has devoted his efforts principally to the blues form.

The project opens with an Allen original “Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil” and immediately the function of the blues is evident as Allen begins his exploration of the genre with a soulful sound that is heartfelt. There are two compositions on this session that are not Allen originals, the first being  “Another Man Done Gone” and “If You’re Lonesome, Then You’re Not Alone”. The first is credited to Alabama-based singer Vera Hall and is sorrowful blues that is accentuated by Gregg August’s arco bass lines and punctuated by Royston’s inventive drumming. Saxophonist  Bill McHenry penned the latter number which stray’s from the expected I-IV-V blues progression. After a dirge-like opening few bars, the tune swings out in a robust fashion with Allen in a more attentive disposition.

A couple of other tracks that offer interesting contrasts are “Sugar Free”  and the title number “Americana”. The former is a swinging fast tempo tune that has an emphatic  cheerfulness. Bassist August demonstrates his virtuosity with a big-toned solo. As for the title track, it is a deep-spirited tome that has a bold stature. Drummer Royston roams over his drum kit as if he is in a dialogue with Allen.

The album is an adventure into America’s musical past.

TrackList: Tell The Trust, Shame The Devil; Another Man Done Gone; Cotton; Sugar Free; Bigger Thomas; Americana; Lightnin’; If You’re Lonesome,Then You’re Not Alone; Lillie Mae Jones

—Pierre Giroux