The Showroom

Introducing J.D. Allen

Meet IN·FLO·RES·CENCE Composer: American Jazz Tenor Saxophonist and Composer J.D. Allen!

Performance | Interview

J.D.'s New Album


For IN·FLO·RES·CENCE J.D. Allen was commissioned by Reece Ewing to create a composition for solo piano around 1 minute in length responding to the changes to daily life during the global coronavirus outbreak. As part of the platform hosted by The Showroom, this individual piece and 9 others will all be interpreted and performed by the project’s first Artist-in-Residence, Pianist Elio Villafranca, throughout the duration of the project.

Photo courtesy of the artist

J.D. Allen's special composition Divoc channels the legacy of jazz as a force of truth and freedom: it is a ballad that creates a mood and functions as what he calls a ‘living form’ – interpretations that can be played differently every time. It also relates to his newest album Toys / Die Dreaming released in late August 2020 and functions as a sister piece: one starts, the other finishes, they book end, they overlap. There’s a moment to breathe. For J.D. it is a gesture of honesty: his truth of being scared during the moment and putting some true ideas down. It’s an exercise in anti-composition that seeks to tell a story, and he hopes to perform it himself live with his band, once that is possible again.

J.D. reflects upon how the IN·FLO·RES·CENCE commission helped him focus on a light and embrace a chance to create, in keeping with the resourcefulness and resilience of jazz. He believes that this project is about uniting across disciplines and borders, finding kinship and being a part of the future. What would IN·FLO·RES·CENCE look like as an annual project, he wonders, continuing to encourage our shared, collective thoughts?


Divoc Score © J.D. Allen, 2020.

In the below intimate conversation with Kevin Le Gendre (Broadcaster and Writer of Don't Stop the Carnival: Black British Music, 2019), J.D. discusses lockdown experience in Cincinnati Ohio upon his invitation to perform with the Louisville Kentucky Symphony Orchestra earlier in the year; the epic correlation of the current pandemics of both coronavirus and racism in America; living in the States in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protest and the symbolic cultural connection of George Floyd and Emmett Till; and the resilience of diversity and solidarity in contemporary protest culture.

J.D. Allen's current relationship with the piano – despite not having one whilst in lockdown – is as a tool for sonic composition as if a whole symphony orchestra is at your fingertips. He reflects that performing without a piano, however, can have a powerfully enigmatic impact conducive for rhythmic storytelling – moreover being without a professional piano during lockdown. He also share some of his favourite solo pianists, including Keith Jarrett, Gwinn Gould, Thelonius Monk, Vladimir Horowitz, Art Tatum, Olivier Messiaen, and more.

Jazz tenor saxophonist and composer J.D. Allen was born in Detroit, Michigan and is a member of the third wave of Young Lion mainstream jazz players. Allen's apprenticeship was largely been in New York, where he performed, recorded, and toured with legends from Lester Bowie and Lawrence D. ‘Butch’ Morris to contemporaries Cindy Blackman and Meshell Ndegeocello. Since making a strong impression during his early years in New York, serving an invaluable tenure with Betty Carter, Allen now performs regularly with his own trio and quartet and releases a new album every year.

J.D. has appeared on WNYC’S Leonard Lopate Show, Jazz Perspectives, Soundcheck and festivals and has headlined worldwide stages including the Village Vanguard, Newport, Saratoga and Summerstage/Charlie Parker Jazz Festivals. Allen has also been featured on NPR’s Fresh Air, in THE ATLANTIC, The New York Times (on the blues) and hailed by Ben Ratliff as, ‘a tenor saxophonist with an enigmatic, elegant and hard-driving style’.