Patuxent CD-102 John Jensen - Shifting Views
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A new CD by jazz trombonist John Jensen is cause for celebration. If you're not hip to this D.C. brass man, you can catch up quick by checking out his previous disc "Homecoming," which showed how a modern, mainstream trombonist can swing with feeling, taste and wit. Like his past efforts as leader and sideman, this new collection of
standards and originals displays Jensen's mighty sound with the fluid technical facility that makes him one of the most highly regarded and sought after trombonists in the nation's capital.
It's reassuring that Jensen has once again surrounded himself with compatible colleagues, giving this session the feeling of long-time musical friends playing after hours for pleasure. Jensen, guitarist Steve Abshire, and drummer Mike Shepherd have spent years working together in big bands, small combos and studio dates. Along with bassist
Dave Wundrow, pianist Robert Redd and saxophonist Bruce Swaim, everybody in the group has rubbed elbows with the greats and their collective professional credits include sharing the stage with Sarah Vaughan, Benny Carter, Joe Williams, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Urbie Green, Milt Hinton, Maynard Ferguson, Tal Farlow, Joe Williams, Herb Ellis and many others.
The musical kicks begin with an unlikely source-a rendition of Franz Lehar's popular art song Yours Is My Heart Alone from his 1929 operetta The Land of Smiles. Jensen, Swaim and Abshire eat up the challenging changes as the arrangement shifts between a brisk 6/8 jazz-latin and straight 4/4 time. Jensen and guitarist Steve Abshire are then featured on their original Shifting Views, a 12-bar blues reminiscent of the Sam Jones classic Unit 7. Listen for the clever key change at the beginning of each solo, and the way that Abshire and Jensen telepathically finish each other's phrases. Their daring, unaccompanied contrapuntal conversation is one of the highlights of this date.
The leader's distinctive tone and vibrato are showcased on the two ballads: drummer Mike Shepherd's lovely, bittersweet title track, and the tough and tender arrangement of Billy Strayhorn's harmonically sumptuous A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing. Other stand-out moments include the trombonist's up-on-the-tightrope duet with bassist Wundrow on Duke Jordan's Jordu, the breezy bossa arrangement of the 1940's ballad At Last, Jensen's muted cry on the catchy Jonathan and the Dinosaurs, his use of the double bell euphonium and the surprising extra measures in the melody of Oscar Pettiford's Tricotism, and the waltz treatment of Hoagy Carmichael's undeservedly obscure gem One Morning In May. The penultimate tune, Natalie's Bounce, is another barnburner: I'm not sure who Natalie is, but I'm guessing she's one swinging Hoosier.
If you want to delve a little further into the mind of Jensen, check all the stream-of-consciousness musical quotes in his trombone solos. I won't spoil your fun, but try to find exactly where and in which tunes he creatively inserts quotes from Opus One, Idaho, It Might As Well Be Spring, and the amusingly self-deprecating If I Only Had A Brain. You can tell this was a fun date for the musicians. We can all look forward to celebrating their next get together.