PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


J.D. Allen Trio: Victory!

In a saxophone trio, there is lots of room to spaz out. J.D. Allen never does.

J.D. Allen Trio


Label: Sunnyside
Release Date: 2011-05-17
Label website
Artist website

J.D. Allen is the kind of guy you want working for your logistics department. His new album Victory! is lean in length, by jazz standards: one dozen songs clocking in at 36 minutes. His playing has an economy to it. He states themes on the sax and plays light solos that don't stray too far from these main themes. On top of that, you can't get much sparser than sax, bass and drums. Hell, none of these guys can really play a musical chord in the technical sense.

This minimal approach didn't come from reining in himself and his players; it's just in his blood. "Wasting notes is a waste of time," he says, an attitude which reminds me of what Charlie Parker used to tell his band: "More than four choruses and you're just practicing." Allen wrote all but one of the songs here. All seem to be modest vehicles for a singular melodic idea. Even when he allows himself to flutter a note, like on "Sura Hinda", Allen is sure to stay within the scale. The listener doesn't get the feeling that dissonance is something the musicians are allergic to. It's just not necessary to the music.

The start is surprisingly unassuming. The album's cover has the name in bold caps, with an exclamation mark on the end. The title track kicks off the album, and it's about as far from loud and victorious as jazz can get. The first 40 seconds are Rudy Royston doing a roll on the snare while Gregg August plucks a few notes here and there. Then in comes a slow blues that in no way whatsoever calls attention to itself. Other compositions like "The Thirsty Ear," both movements of "The Pilot's Compass" and "Sura Hinda" up the ante somewhat, with tempo and mood changes, but only slightly. Even when he is the main voice for the tunes at hand, Allen never really indulges himself in a flashy solo.

The CD of Victory! comes with a short film encoded on the disc, approximately 10 minutes long and with dodgy audio. In it, Allen offers brief thoughts on adversity and the everyman's ability to turn himself around. The interesting thing is, at one point he talks about his horn being an outlet for hardships. That's not an uncommon sentiment among musicians, but the saxophone artistry of J.D. Allen in the studio is so contained and subtle, you have to wonder if he is strictly speaking about his live performances. Yet halfway through the film, he reveals a work ethic that makes more sense. He doesn't work on different pieces; he works on "one piece." Victory!, hence, is likely best approached as one piece.

As genuinely enthusiastic J.D. Allen seems about his music, Victory! doesn't feel like a statement. It feels like a gentle nudge. There is nothing inherently wrong with keeping it simple and not wanting to waste notes, but you have to wonder where Allen could go if he allowed himself more elbow room.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.