Hailed by the New York Times as “a tenor saxophonist with an enigmatic, elegant and hard-driving style,” JD Allen is a bright rising light on today’s international jazz scene. His unique and compelling voice on the instrument – the result of a patient and painstaking confrontation with the fundamentals of the art – has recently earned Allen a blaze of critical attention signaling his ascension to the upper ranks of the contemporary jazz world. Originally from Detroit, Allen’s apprenticeship, anchored by his lengthy tenure with Betty Carter, occurred largely in New York, where he worked with legends Lester Bowie, George Cables, Ron Carter, Louis Hayes, Frank Foster Big Band, Winard Harper, Butch Morris, David Murray, Wallace Roney. He added his voice to that of his contemporaries as well; Cindy Blackman, Eric Revis, Orrin Evans, Meshell Ndegeocello, Dave Douglas, Jeremy Pelt, Gerald Cleaver and Nigel Kennedy continue to call upon him to augment their musical visions. JD’s debut album, In Search Of… (Red Records, 1999), won him the Best New Artist award in Italy, and reviewers praised him for his compositions and conceptual boldness. His second release, Pharoah’s Children (Criss Cross, 2002), again won him accolades for its thoughtfulness, maturity, and adventurousness. One of Jazziz Magazine’s Critics Picks Top 10 Albums of the Year, the album was widely praised in the U.S. and Europe.
In 2008 Allen began an association with Sunnyside Records, which released I AM – I AM featuring Gregg August (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) and garnered rave reviews from the New York Times (Ben Ratliff’s Playlist), Time Out NY (music cover), All About Jazz, Jazzman, Jazz Wise and Downbeat. That year Allen appeared on NPR’s Jazz Perspectives, WNYC’s Soundcheck and WKCR’s Musician’s Show. Allen was named “Rising Star” in DownBeat’s 2011 Critic’s Poll as well as a finalist in the 2010, 2009 and 2008 polls.
In 2009, Allen released his follow-up Sunnyside recording, Shine! which seems to have detonated the trail of musical gunpowder he had long been putting down. He received TOP 10 ALBUM OF THE YEAR in over 25 publications worldwide including; NPR’S Top 5 Albums of 2009 (Shine!), JazzTimes Top 50 Albums of 2009 (Shine!), Village Voice #9 Jazz Album of the Year (Shine!), Boston Globe Top Jazz Album of the Year, 2009 (Shine!). Word-of-mouth praise for the album led Lorraine Gordon, owner of the famed and historic Village Vanguard to invite him and his trio for a weeklong stint. The engagement was met with relentless coverage from the cultural press: Time Out New York selected his engagement as its top musical attraction for that week; he appeared on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show; his work was again discussed by Ben Ratliff on WBGO’ Josh Jackson’s show; and the New York Times reviewed his residency, commending Allen for his trio’s “fearless approach to a formidable tradition.” Allen’s final trio record with the label, VICTORY!, (Sunnyside) garnered Director Mario Lathan’s biographical short film on Allen the 2011 Jazz Journalist Association (JJA) award for BEST SHORT FILM and has received worldwide recognition including a feature on NPR’s First Listen, an in-depth piece in the June issue of JazzTimes and 4**** stars from Downbeat.
High Note Records’ The Matador and The Bull (2012) and his most recent GRACE (2013) earned Allen consecutive Downbeat Critics Poll Award Winner for “TENOR SAXOPHONIST” and “COMPOSER” and equal critical acclaim.