The meat of JD Allen’s Bloom is concentrated in the first half of the 10-song set. As Allen explains in the liner notes, his originals utilize both the harmonic language of French composer Oliver Messiaen and the 12-tone techniques of Arnold Schonberg. These guideposts preclude completed melodies, but helped carve and shape strikingly fresh and thematically consistent songs. The big, brawny tone of Allen’s tenor saxophone doesn’t need much more than motifs and implied melodic progression as it skirts and spurts with a slightly acidic, nasal urgency, especially with pianist Orrin Evans comping and phrasing in a manner that enriches the harmony and thus deepens the mystery. Bassist Alexander Claffy and drummer Jonathan Barber are likewise in sync so that the first five compositions — and “The Rule of Thirds” on track eight — share a sense of alert immersion and foreboding, flecked with beauty. It is an ongoing pleasure to parse what they’re up to.
The rest of the disc — four of the last five songs — are a blatant ballast of tradition. Allen plays the Tadd Dameron standard “If You Could See Me Now” (written for Sarah Vaughan) as a trio (minus Orrin Evans), followed by a solo rendition of the classic, “Stardust.” Both are melodic midtempo ballads stated and then creatively elaborated with his large, enveloping sound. The closing two tracks include a gorgeous gospel tune from the public domain, “Pater Noster,” featuring Claffy on bow, and then a stylishly swinging blues, “Car-Car,” that moves with the guileless lilt of a lithe young woman in a sundress.