Two decades have passed since alto saxophonist Brent Jensen recorded his debut album for Origin Records, Sounds of a Dry Martini: A Tribute to Paul Desmond, in 2001. To Jensen's surprise, the album became so enormously popular that the possibility of a sequel was envisioned. There was, however, one large stumbling block—by 2007, Jensen had sold his alto sax and switched to soprano. It was not until 2017, after he had moved to Seattle, Washington, and bought another alto, that the idea of sharing a second Dry Martini moved from the realm of unlikely to plausible.
Fortunately, guitarist Jamie Findlay, Jensen's friend and sidekick on that earlier homage to Desmond, had also moved to Washington state, bringing plausible closer to inevitable. After enlisting a bassist (Chris Symer) and a drummer (two actually—Stefan Schatz and John Bishop), the plan to record a second tribute to Dave Brubeck's alter ego took flight in September and October 2020. Jensen chose to open the session with a pair of Desmond's compositions, "Take Ten" and "Desmond Blue," and add a third, "Bossa Antigua," to complement Brubeck's "Three to Get Ready," Duke Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me" and the standards "Look for the Silver Lining," "These Foolish Things," "Alone Together" and "Autumn Leaves."
It is clear from the outset that Jensen's admiration for Desmond is heartfelt, and his endeavor to reproduce the peerless Desmond sound comes perhaps as close as anyone has. On the other hand, there was only one Paul Desmond and, even though the differences between the two may be slight, they are nonetheless apparent, and no one who is familiar with Desmond would confuse Jensen's sound and style, comparable as they may be, with the maestro's. Having said that, it should be noted that anyone who is familiar with Desmond ought to find Jensen's facsimile remarkably perceptive and highly enjoyable. His solos, even though not quite as "dry" and detached as Desmond's, are consistently sharp and engaging, as are Findlay's. The quartets work well together, and everyone swings as earnestly as the playbook requires.
"Autumn Leaves" is especially intriguing, its melody barely perceptible as everyone works overtime to make its natural charms as seductive as possible. Old standbys "Look for the Silver Lining" and "These Foolish Things" are among the other highlights, as is Desmond's melodious "Bossa Antigua." Another Dry Martini is a treat not only for fans of Desmond but for anyone who appreciates the alto sax played with impressive warmth and uncommon intelligence.