I’d not heard John Jensen before, and as no information about him is given in the booklet accompanying this album I can report only that he is a talented post–bop Jazz trombonist with a knack for choosing splendid accompanists. Among his contemporaries Jensen reminds me most of John Fedchock, Dan Barrett or Andy Martin; among the older generation, of Carl Fontana or Urbie Green more than, say, Frank Rosolino or J.J. Johnson. Good as Jensen is, he’s hard–pressed to keep pace with his hand–picked rhythm section, especially pianist Hod O’Brien and bassist Steve Gilmore who are unassuming models of taste and efficiency. As an indication of where Jensen’s sentiments lie, three of the first four selections are (nominally) ballads but none is taken at a less than moderate tempo and one (“But Not for Me”) is remolded into a lively flag–waver. It’s not until track five that Jensen, playing “against” himself open and muted, slackens the pace for Ellington’s “Sentimental Mood,” as he does on the finale, Gene DePaul / Don Raye’s “You Don’t Know What Love Is.” The ballads between them — “Time After Time,” “Alone Together,” “I Thought About You” — are played medium to up, and Jensen and Co. make each chosen tempo seem wholly appropriate. “Alone Together” works especially well in its flashy new wardrobe, thanks in part to bracing solos by Jensen, O’Brien and Gilmore. In fact, one can’t say enough about O’Brien, a marvelous accompanist whose every solo all but steals the show from its headliner. Jensen probably doesn’t care about that, as he lavishes praise in the liner notes on O’Brien, Gilmore, drummer Brooks Tegler, guitarist (and album producer) Steve Abshire and percussionist Sam “Seguito” Turner. Instead, he plays to his strengths, which include sharp arrangements, superior choice of music (and tempo), reliable chops, an eagerness to swing and, not least, those remarkably proficient sidemen. Put ’em all together and they add up to an extremely pleasurable Homecoming.
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