"A Mind for the Scenery" provides Portland, Oregon-based woodwind artist and arranger Tim Jensen with a broad canvas on which to lay out his considerable talents. This CD is the second solo effort by Jensen; otherwise, he stays busy in and around the Pacific Northwest as a guest artist and sideman, and also tours with singers and stage shows.
In this CD, Jensen presents himself on most of the current jazz woodwind arsenal: soprano, alto, tenor, and bari sax, piccolo, flute, and bass clarinet. He is also the arranger for this group, and is the composer of seven out of the nine selections. The standard library is represented only by "Green Dolphin Street" in an unusual and enjoyable arrangement that features Jensen on piccolo supported by the rhythm section. Jensen has also arranged Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages" for the group in an interesting setting that gives the soloists a contemporary bop groove sandwiched between two unaccompanied chorale passages for bass clarinet, tenor, trumpet, and trombone.
Jensen's original compositions span a range from juicy New Orleans funk ("Sausage"), avant-garde swing ("Rusty Rayburn and Piggy Lee"), fusion ("Carson City"), and the heavy ballad "Lament For Larry," which features a gospel-tinged vocal by Brenda Baker. The band is also packed with good soloists including trumpeter Paul Mazzio, sax player Rob Scheps, and Jeff Uusitalo on trombone. Jensen also varies the size of the group on each selection, with most of the tunes ranging from four to six horn players and the rhythm section.
It's difficult to pinpoint a category for this CD, because the compositional styles range so broadly. On top of that, each tune contains multiple styles and variations within its context. Stylistic purists may find this a bit off-putting, but the variety, creative spark, and continuous surprises that await the listener definitely make this a CD worth getting.