For his fifth Origin CD, Idaho-based Brent Jensen parts ways with his alto sax to perform exclusively on the soprano, and proves to be just as proficient and engaging on the straight horn. With the inspired support of his fellow Origin recording artists from Seattle?the trio of pianist Bill Anschell, bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer (and label founder) John Bishop?the gifted Jensen impresses throughout a wide-ranging set of tunes.
The loping "Sweet and Lovely" can hardly be performed without shades of Monk, and Jensen's unhurried and graceful solo and the group's playful interplay capture that spirit. Johnson's catchy, modal "E.J." features descending and then ascending tone rows, Anschell's sizzling Tyner-ish piano solo and Jensen's quietly intense, searching improv. Johnson and Bishop follow with a well-played simultaneous exploration. Dizzy's "Birks' Works" is intriguingly arranged by Anschell, and Jensen's solo shows off his formidable technique and warm, semi-sweet soprano sound. Anschell's "One More Mile" has an endearing, poignant melody, and both the pianist and Jensen grasp its sadness and yearning in their absorbing solos.
Jensen and Anschell are in duet for "Alone Together," essayed in a jagged start-and-stop manner, with Anschell's excellent solo visiting Tristano territory. Sam Rivers' memorable "Beatrice" is given a fervent reading by all, with Johnson's throbbing, nimble bass solo a particular high point, as is Jensen's wailing contribution. "Foresaken," Anschell's mournful, hypnotic ballad, receives a heartfelt interpretation, with the composer's solo gripping in its emotion. The closer, "Punt," is a free improvisation sans piano, evidencing the great rapport these artists have developed over the years, as their lines merge and unwind with endless invention.