Cincinnati-born baritone saxophonist B.J. Jansen's tenth album is titled Common Ground for good reason: his sextet consists of NEA Jazz Master trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis, drummer Ralph Peterson, trumpeter Duane Eubanks, pianist Zaccai Curtis, and bassist Dezron Douglasall of whom revel in improvisation. His group's shared affinity for jazz in the straight-ahead vein compelled Jansen to employ a "hands-off" tactic as leader, prompting the end product's great diversity of playing and style. The album has its post- bop pieces, hard bop workouts, Coltrane-esque spirituals, and mellifluous ballads, constituting an album that sounds classic, yet modern in its permissive borrowing from jazz's past.
From the first muscular bars of "Stacey's Pace," the aura of Common Ground is made clear: uncluttered, timeless jazz that harkens back to the all-star sessions of the late '50s and early '60s. A nimble bass solo by Douglas ushers in spirited improvisation from the remainder of the group, assembling sounds that likely would've reverberated off the walls of the Five Spot in its heyday. Influenced by the harmonic intricacy of Charlie Parker's compositions, "Angela's Aggravation" swings with a bebop approach, featuring a blazing solo by Jansen that conveys unbridled passion without compromising clarity.
Further venturing down jazz's stylistic evolution, "Street Walk" exudes a post-bop flavor with its angular melody and dynamic structure. Anchored by Peterson's intrepid, at times explosive, sense of rhythm, players are impelled to solo at their most dexterous. Not lacking in tranquility, ballads "Carol's Dream" and "Soul Loss" impart the sextet's softer side, with Jansen filling open space with languid phrasing throughout the latter. As the concluding piece, the improvised title track seems to hit the crux of the albumresolute unity through music. Leading his band from a spiritual introduction to reckless free playing, Jansen's sinuous trajectory never falters due to this mutual perceptivity.
If the Blue Note and Prestige sessions of old occupy a sizeable portion of your music collection, Common Ground is an essential new release (the album even includes three alternate takes, akin to modern jazz reissues). Backed with a band of the highest caliber, Jansen's adroitness and appreciation for jazz produces a sound that radiates with classic charm. While his influence lies in the traditional, Jansen's individuality will surely cement his position in the line of great baritone players.
Stacey's Pace; Carol's Dream; Street Walk; Brandon's Blues; Soul Loss; Angela's
Aggravation; Bucket Full of Soul; Relaxin' with Jessica; Common Ground; Angela's
Aggravation (Alternate Take); Bucket Full of Soul (Alternate Take); Stacey's Pace
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!
Get more of a good thing
Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.