Marsalis Jams: J. D. Allen Trio Pairs with Berklee Students

By 
Liz Burg
November 1, 2011
J. D. Allen, along with bassist Gregg August and drummer Kush Abadey, performs at Cafe 939 on November 9 and 10.
Photo by Crush Boone

Berklee College of Music and Marsalis Music present Marsalis Berklee Jams, a program that brings up-and-coming jazz artists to Boston for performances and master classes with Berklee students. The featured artist for this eighth installment is the J. D. Allen Trio, with tenor saxophonist J. D. Allen, bassist Gregg August, and drummer Kush Abadey, a former Berklee Presidential Scholar.

The J. D. Allen Trio, known for seamlessly blending its creative members' improvisation into deliberate frameworks, will present master classes and concerts on November 9 and 10. While participation in the master classes is only open to Berklee students, tickets for the concerts are available to the public. Performances take place at Berklee's Cafe 939, 939 Boylston Street, at 8:00 p.m., and tickets for this all ages show are $10 ($2 for Berklee students). To purchase tickets, visit cafe939.com or call 617 747-2261.

"A tenor saxophonist with an enigmatic, elegant and hard-driving style" (New York Times), J. D. 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 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. Since his 1996 debut album, Allen has become a regular headliner in some of the most significant venues and festivals around the world: the Village Vanguard, Barcelona, Newport, Charlie Parker/Summerstage, Saratoga, and NYC Winter and Undead Jazzfests, all of which have cemented his place amongst today's foremost composers and saxophonists. Allen was named a Rising Star in DownBeat's 2011 Critic's Poll and was named a finalist in the 2008–2010 polls. Heralded as Best New Artist in the 2006 JazzTimes Readers' Poll, Allen 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!), and Boston Globe Top Jazz Album of the Year in 2009 (Shine!). Allen's latest trio release, VICTORY! (Sunnyside, 5/11), includes a film short by director Mario Lathan and has received worldwide recognition including a feature on NPR's First Listen, an in-depth feature in the June 2011 issue of JazzTimes, and four stars from DownBeat.

Bassist Gregg August spans the jazz, Latin jazz, classical, and avant-garde scenes. A composer and arranger celebrated for his versatility, breadth, and intelligence, August has been a member of the J. D. Allen Trio since 2007. A former member of Ray Barretto's New World Spirit, August has performed with Ornette Coleman, Paquito D'Rivera, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and the Orchestra of St. Luke's. August is also a member of the Chico O'Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra and serves as assistant principal bassist of the Brooklyn Philharmonic. His sextet released the acclaimed album Late August (Iacuessa Records, 2005) and One Peace (Iacuessa Records, 2007), which was named one of Hot House's top ten recordings of 2007. For more information, visit greggaugust.com.

At the young age of 20, Kush Abadey exhibits talent beyond his years as a drummer and bandleader. After attending Berklee College of Music on a prestigious Presidential Scholarship, Abadey has performed and traveled internationally with the Wallace Roney Jazz Quintet in addition to performing with Gary Thomas, Barry Harris, David Weiss, Terence Blanchard, and Branford and Wynton Marsalis, among others. In 2006, Abadey was chosen as the youngest Strathmore Artist-in-Residence, and he performed at the White House for First Lady Michelle Obama's Jazz at the White House alongside Paquito D'Rivera in 2009. For more information, visit myspace.com/kgyroscope.

This is the eighth Marsalis Berklee Jams, following programs with the Three Cohens, Miguel Zenón, Sean Jones, Fly, Dafnis Prieto, and Claudia Acuña. Marsalis Jams was conceived by Branford Marsalis as an initiative to provide meaningful interaction between established musical ensembles and dedicated student musicians at the high school and college levels. The program consists of mini-residencies that include classroom interaction and culminate in performances/jam sessions in which the visiting band follows an opening set of its own music by inviting student musicians on stage to play. Since 2003, the program has been successfully presented in colleges and high schools in Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Texas.