Project O: Now as Then (2003)
Leaderless dates aren't an everyday occurrence in jazz, nor are organ trio sessions featuring trumpet rather than, say, guitar. This particular collaboration, Project O, features Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, Gary Versace on organ and Jon Wikan on drums. The three principals have found a supportive home for their labor of love on Montreal's Justin Time label, and they make a point of devoting the back flap to the faces not only of special guests Steve Wilson (alto sax, alto flute), Christine Jensen (alto/soprano sax) and Seamus Blake (tenor sax) but also engineer/mixer/masterer Paul Wickliffe.
It's an unusually poignant thank-you to the soundman, and the music is indeed captured beautifully. The program begins with a complex reading of "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" that moves from loping 7/4 to a faster 4/4 swing in the bridge and finally to a funk coda. "R Hour," one of two Jensen/Wikan co-creations, follows in mellow swing time; its nine-bar A section and AAB form throw the listener slightly off-balance. Versace plays chordlessly to open Jensen's solo; she enhances the effect with clever partial muting. We also hear from Steve Wilson on alto sax.
As it happens, Versace's moody, straight-eighth piece "Now As Then" is the only time we hear the trio alone, without guest soloists. Following this, Seamus Blake, who played on the opening standard, returns for his understated waltz "Periwinkle." Mary Lou Williams' "Gloria," heard in a light but spirited funk feel, is one of Project O's creative peaks, with a restrained yet quite difficult shout chorus following the organ solo and an ecstatic round of trading between sisters Ingrid and Christine (the latter playing soprano sax).
The second Wikan/Jensen piece, "Silver Prelude/Silver Twilight," begins with dark scene- setting harmonies before morphing into a waltz; Steve Wilson's alto flute blends sumptuously with the organ. Wikan's straight-eighth original "Tony's Town" provides another feature for Seamus Blake and paves the way for the finale, a mid-tempo hard bop tune by Christine Jensen called "Dilemma." Steve Wilson and the younger Jensen trade increasingly shorter statements on alto saxophones; Ingrid breaks up the fight with a reflective but firm statement of her own.
For an especially rich comparative listen, check out Larry Young's newly reissued Mother Ship (Blue Note) featuring Lee Morgan on trumpet, Herbert Morgan on tenor and Eddie Gladden on drums.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .
Track Listing: 1. The Night Has a Thousand Eyes 10:59 2. R Hour 8:29 3. Now as Then 6:39 4. Periwinkle 7:30 5. Gloria 8:42 6. Silver Prelude/Silver Twilight 6:47 7. Tony's Town 8:50 8. Dilemma 8:51
Personnel: Steve Wilson - Alto Flute, Alto Sax; Seamus Blake - Tenor Sax; Ingrid Jensen - Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Alto and Soprano Sax; John Wikan - Drums; Gary Versace - Hammond Organ.