JD Allen’s intelligent, elegant and fiery playing style make the tenor saxophonist an interesting part of the international modern-jazz scene. How he plays is unique, the result of a long quest to find the basic tenets of his instrument and then expand them. The 46-year-old American learned his craft in New York where, in the 1990s, under the wing of Betty Carter, he played with giants like Lester Bowie, Frank Foster, and George Cables. That an outstanding composer was lurking inside him became apparent on Allen’s debut album as a bandleader, In Search Of J.D. Allen (1999). His search for a creative identity of his own began with that recording. His most recent ballads-only album Love Stone (2018) is also impressive. With the JD Allen Quartet featuring master guitarist Liberty Ellman, the saxophonist lets his instrument talk, like John Coltrane in the past, relating warm ballads with driving grooves and soulful interpretations.