JD Allen, “A Throng of Millions Can Be One” from Bloom (2015): One Track Mind

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JD Allen brings in pianist and composer Orrin Evans for Bloom, his third Savant Records project, and together they dive deeper still into the immersive suspension of John Coltrane at his most meaningful and forboding on “A Throng of Millions Can Be One.”

Evans, who takes over for Eldar Djangirov from JD Allen’s most recent release Grace, is joined by returning drummer Jonathan Barber and newcomer bassist Alexander Claffy in a group that deftly amplifies the tenor saxophonist’s deeply emotional excursions. Allen memorably collaborated on Orrin Evans’ 2014 release Liberation Blues, and that history provides a sense of symbiotic community here. Evans’ asides work as well-placed punctuation marks, while Barner and Claffy play a conjunctive role — all of it in service to JD Allen’s principal (and principled) voice.

Earthy yet involvingly ecclesiastical, brimming with intellect and yet inextricably connected with his elders (at times, you hear splashes of Sonny Rollins through Bloom, as well), JD Allen has become one of jazz’s most exciting new voices by virtue of his ability to craft considered, original thoughts out of the tradition. As such, “A Throng of Millions Can Be One” brings to mind so many of John Coltrane’s best Impulse-era moments — there’s a contemplative torque, a reverent space, a rigorous attention to spiritual matters — but without ever sliding off into the tiredly referential.

“A Throng of Millions Can Be One,” just one of many standout moments on Bloom, feels like the birth of a new jazz hymn – with all of the complexity that implies. JD Allen is still building upward from the music’s sturdy foundation, and the result is one of his most involving albums yet.

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