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Art of the Groove

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Alto sax player Brent Jensen here releases his third album, now in combination with flugelhornist Rob Walker. The theme of Art of the Groove is creations based on the many stylings of Miles Davis, with the compositions stacked with originals from the pair. The album opens up with a bit of hard bop derived from a solo on a recording of "Straight, No Chaser," where they fuse a little West Coast cool jazz in for good measure. "It Could Happen to You" is the first of two standards on the album, this one going for the sound of the classic quintet days. Building from an Art Blakey perspective, Art of the Groove (see the pun?) plays out some more hard bop to the listener's delight, complete with excellent solos courtesy of Walker and pianist Marc Seales, as well as the requisite Blakey-inspired drumming courtesy of John Bishop. "Evan's Pen" gives Seales some more room to stretch out and show his ability to shift into any style he likes with touches of Keith Jarrett throughout. Breaking out of the Davis idiom for a bit, the group shifts into a bit of a samba (though even out of the idiom, there are still features of the group sound popping out from time to time). "You Go to My Head" is the second standard, giving Jensen back the wheel for a run at one of his specialties: proper lounge-style ballads, and he displays his form beautifully. "Dewey's Steps" opens with a bit of a Sketches of Spain feel, but moves into a more uptempo workout, highlighted by some fine soloing from Seales that seems somewhat removed from the Davis stylings (maybe one or two degrees of separation away, around the Coltrane era perhaps) and some sparser sections. The album closes on "Later" (based on "Soon"), which uses a bit of a bossa nova bassline under some parallel horn lines reminiscent somewhat of the Chet Baker/Gerry Mulligan recordings. While no single work necessarily bears out the full beauty of the album as a highlight, the album as a whole is a solid effort. One gets the feeling that the band is walking the line between sheer emulation and new directions the whole time, but they walk that line pretty well, cemented in by outstanding playing on the part of all involved, with a special nod to New Stories — Seales, Doug Miller, and Bishop — as the rhythm section. Give it a spin.

Art of the Groove, Brent Jensen
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