Red flags flare up when a disc comes in with the tag "eclectic" lurking in the press material. The New Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word as "selecting or made up of what seems best of varied sources." But the word sometimes serves as a shorthand for—in the world of music assessment—unfocused or lacking continuity of vision. Fortunately, multiple reedman Tim Jensen's A Mind for the Scenery holds to the true definition.
The Portland, Oregon-based arranger/composer does combine a dizzying array of varied styles here, as he switches lineup on every track, using everything from the quartet mode—himself on one of his many reeds in front of the rhythm section—to a nine horn front line. The mix of styles in the stew ranges from the tangy grooves of the opener, "Sausage," to a Stan Kenton-ish big band sound on "Rusty Rayburn and Piggy Lee," a song that swings smooth in a sea of muted brass and cool reeds; amd on into the edgy, slightly discordant (in the beginning), dark- toned "Fiasco."
Jensen composed seven of the nine tunes here and added the classic "Green Dolphin Street" and Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages" (the "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now" song). The reedman's takes on both these covers bristle with originality. The former features Jensen on piccolo with just the rhythm section; and the latter opens with a drunken horn intro that melds into the disc's loveliest moment, pianist Randy Porter's lush but straightforward introduction of one of Dylan's prettiest melodies.
It may seem a niggling complaint on a disc that covers so much ground so successfully, but I'd like to have heard Jensen's reed work featured front and center more. He plays alto, baritone, tenor and soprano saxophones here, plus flute, piccolo and bass clarinet. But on A Mind for the Scenery it's compositions and arrangements with five or six horns that hold sway. His one small ensemble piece, "Green Dolphin Street," whetted my appetite for more quartet sounds. With all the reeds he plays, he could still pull off the eclectic thing.
Sausage, Rusty Rayburn and Piggy Lee, Green Dolphin Street, My Back Pages, Carson City, Lament for Larry, Fiasco, Mambrino Flats, Felpham's Vale
Tim Jensen--soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones, flute, piccolo, bass clarinet; Randy Porter--piano; Gary Hobbs--drums; Phil Baker and Dave Captein--bass; Rob Scheps--soprano saxophone; Paul Mazzio--flugelhorn and trumpet; Jeff Uusitalo--trombone; Reinhardt Meiz--percussion; Kirk Peterson--tenor sax, vocal; Rich Cooper--trumpet; Dic Titterington--trumpet, vocal; Stan Beck--trombone, vocal; Doug Peebles--bass trombone
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