The best-known musicians on the Portland jazz scene tend to be those who've achieved a good measure of national notice (Tom Grant), kept their names out front as bandleaders (Thara Memory) or served for decades as reliable if low-key masters of the craft (Phil Baker). But name recognition can sometimes take a while to catch up with talent. So if you're not yet familiar with Tim Jensen, don't presume that's because he's not worthy of attention.
Jensen plays around town in various ensembles and has written arrangements for the high-profile Pink Martini, but he doesn't chase the limelight. Even on his own album he resists the temptation to show off his chops much, preferring to work within a variety of multihorn lineups.
On his recently released "A Mind for the Scenery," Jensen plays saxophones (soprano, alto, tenor and baritone), bass clarinet, flute and piccolo. He wrote seven of the nine tunes and arranged the lot, also helping engineer Dennis Carter mix the album.
With the likes of saxophonist Rob Scheps, trombonists Stan Bock and Jeff Uusitalo, trumpeters Paul Mazzio and Dick Titterington, pianist Randy Porter and percussionists Gary Hobbs and Reinhardt Melz, this album might be all you'd need to convince someone of the terrific talent pool around here.
The widescreen approach all this skill affords Jensen is shown to best effect on "Rusty Rayburn and Piggy Lee," a witty big-band vignette that extrapolates from blues and swing, with layers of horn and vocal harmonies shifting around each other. At the other end of the spectrum, he demonstrates economy of means with a bright, lovely reading of the classic "Green Dolphin Street," featuring just his piccolo over a deft rhythm section.
For the set's other cover song, he gives Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages" a woozy yet elegiac intro, which leads into the melody, elegantly stated and elaborated upon by Porter.
Elsewhere, Jensen's compositions are well-turned enough to be interesting and open enough to give his players room. Jensen shows a knack for integrating influences while revealing a compelling artistic vision.