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Wellstone Conspiracy: Motives

Dan McClenaghan By

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This ensemble might have been labeled the Brent Jensen Quartet. They recorded One More Mile under the Idaho-based saxophonist's name. For their album Motives, however, they are calling themselves the Wellstone Conspiracy as they delve deeper into a melodic music that is steeped in the modern harmonic concepts of Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter.

The set opens with Jeff Johnson's grainy, guitar-like bass lines on the Jensen-penned "Bye Bye Blackwell." The late Ed Blackwell was, perhaps most famously, Ornette Coleman's drummer on This is Our Music (Atlantic Records, 1960), Ornette on Tenor (Atlantic Records, 1962) and many more. The tune is the most free and most mysterious of this set, with Jensen's very melodic soprano saxophone yearning inside the jumbled rhythm. Pianist Bill Anschell's solo is complex and impossibly beautiful in front of the relentless Johnson and John Bishop, a drummer of orchestral dimensions.

Seven of the eight tunes are written by the band members—three by Jensen, three by Anschell, one by Johnson, with Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing," closing the set. These are virtuosic players/writers, but it's the cohesive group dynamic that makes the sound succeed. Anschell's "Phindango" has an optimistic vibe, with Jensen's soprano sounding especially sweet. Jensen's "Anne Rose" goes the gorgeous ballad route, with Jensen's horn blowing warmly and robustly in front of subtle, light-stepping accompaniment that picks up the tempo as it rolls along.

Johnson's "Portrait" goes inward and features one of the bassist's pensive solos entwined with Anschell's delicate piano sparkle. Johnson bounces, in a big and rubbery way, into the Jensen-penned, cool-bopping "Doop Dee Doop," a tune gets a bit fractured as Anschell and Bishop shamble into the proceedings. "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing," one of Strayhorn's loveliest tunes, is given a very reverent treatment here—an achingly gorgeous seven minutes to wrap up to an outstanding set of modern jazz sounds.


Track Listing: Bye Bye Blackwell; Phindango; Anne Rose; Turbulator; Portrait; Stories We Hold; Doop Dee Doop; A Flower is a Lovesome Thing.

Personnel: Brent Jensen: soprano saxophone; Bill Anschell: piano; Jeff Johnson: bass; John Bishop: drums.

Title: Motives | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Origin Records

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