Allen's Odyssey is bassist James King's long, long overdue, recording debut as a leader, his coming out party as a composer and an affirmation of his considerable musical virtue as accompanist and soloist. This program of nine originals from King's pen should also be heard as King's testament to his values, his aesthetics, his purposes -- to that which he holds most dear in life and in music. Above all, I hear Allen's Odyssey as a statement in favor of, in celebration of, fortitude and self-determination. A native of Houston, Texas, James King has been a fixture on the Washington jazz scene since the late 1970s. "King James," a first-call bassist, is highly valued for his versatility, his sensitivity and his sumptuous, unimpeachable, impeccably swinging time. He is also a touring artist with a constantly expanding national and international resume. "I've been in DC so long, I got my tattoo," he laughed. "I got my membership." But as King reminds us with "A Texas Thang" and "Going Home," "You can't," as he put it," get away from where you came from." King's most important mentors were legendary Texas Tenor Arnett Cobb, composer/pianist Consuela Lee Morehead (School Daze), trumpeter Andrew "Tex" Allen and Carl Adams (formerly with Ray Charles). "A Texas Thang" is the first movement of King's suite dedicated to those early influences and the deeply soulful sense of the groove they imparted to him. "Going Home" is a burning, in King's words, "minor blues with a different head, altered head." Well, I am hearing that groove, that soul King identifies as a Texas attitude, processed through the approach, the open, organic approach and edge of Coltrane, Tyner, Garrison and Jones from the early 1960s. What was radical, raw and a discovery then is now classic, a purified musical essence. Hearing this you might ask yourself, when is thing a thang? Is thang a proprietary Texas thing? I don't think so. Thang is a part of the national vernacular. Maybe in King's Texas there was a little more ang in the thang, a little more brown sugar in the barbecue sauce, subtly more, musically more, pleasing not cloying, a gentle sweetness. Certainly a sense of graceful hipness and sweet assurance permeate three selections closest to the heart of the composer - "Dez's Dance", "Miss Lillie " and "Paulette." Mature debuts have the advantage of being retrospective and reflective. King has had the time to understand who and what are worthy of memory of and of memorializing. "Dez's Dance" was written for Desdemona Martin, James's beloved mother-in-law, who made her transition in October of 2008. King remembers her as steadfast, dancing in, around and through all the shifting currents that her life presented. "Miss Lillie" was how James' Mother was known in the neighborhood of his youth. It was also a measure of the esteem in which she was held as an elementary school educator and church pianist. James attributes his passion for music to Miss Lillie, who held a degree in music from Texas Southern and filled their home with the sounds of Chopin and other composers that she favored. "Paulette" is dedicated to and evocative of James wife and sometime Muse, Terie Paulette King. "This Time" is a lovely example of James and Terie's musical collaboration. The haunting yet wistful melody is Terie's. The harmonic grounding and development is James. Together, James and Terie, capture the intimacy of a moment, the something that can only happen once, the recognition of and longing for what can not be had again and so is to be savored all the more, "Brick By Brick" and "In Contemplation" are similar in that the composer's concern in each piece is to meditate musically upon the requirements for a balanced approach to everyday living. What'd I say? There are no short cuts in life. Certainly we, each and every one of us, needs or should have a quiet space, some solitude, for thinking. But in the end, if we are to put our thoughts and possible answers into practice, we can only successfully do so brick-by-brick. You might be wondering who Allen is or was. At the time of his retirement, in 1906, Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth was the highest-ranking commissioned officer of African American descent in the US Military. In 1908, Allensworth founded a town in California's San Joaquin Valley, bearing his name, in the hopes of building a community with a 'sentiment favorable to intellectual and industrial liberty.' According to King, "I read about Allensworth, some years ago. The whole story resonated with me and became the inspiration for "Allen's Odyssey." I think that in Allen Allensworth James King found a kindred spirit. Certainly in saxophonist Gary Bartz, pianist Larry Willis and drummer Nasar Abadey James has surrounded himself with kindred spirits, each of whom plays beautifully herein. James has toured and recorded with Bartz, most notably on Bartz's Blues Chronicles: Tales of Life and Soprano Stories. Like Bartz, Willis is a world renowned leading light on his instrument. Although Allen's Odyssey is the first time Larry and James have recorded together, they have shared many bandstands and their comfort with each other is obvious. Nasar Abadey and James King have been one of Washington's premier rhythm tandems for years. James is the anchor of Nasar's brilliant small ensemble SUPERNOVA and can be heard on Abadey's CD Mirage. Over the years James has jammed, rehearsed, concertized, recorded and toured with these musicians in many combinations. The telepathic anticipation, the knowing of how to fit together, to breath together, to complete and develop each other's thoughts makes Allen's Odyssey a gift to every listener. In their hearing and understanding of each other, some fresh music has been made, stories James King wanted to tell have been told, and a new measure of Joy has been added to our world. W.A.Brower.