Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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JENSEN, Brent

(b 12 February 1960, Twin Falls ID) Alto and soprano sax. This writer and his wife dropped into Bud's Jazz Records in a funky basement in Pioneer Square in Seattle a few months ago, and were enchanted to hear a new CD by Brent Jensen. We bought it on the spot.

Jensen is one of those musicians who has listened carefully to modern masters (he lists as influences Keith Jarrett, Kenny Garrett, Lee Konitz, Chet Baker, Dick Oatts, Steve Lacy, Thelonious Monk and Warne Marsh) and who has found a voice of his own, lyrical and beautiful, always with a delightful surprise around the corner. He is an Assistant Professor of Music at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls. In 1986-87, he studied in New York City with Lee Konitz on a grant from the Idaho Commission on the Arts. He has gigged all over with a huge number of other musicians, and his CDs, all on Origin Records, have been welcome on the few jazz radio programs that are left, variously making the hit lists at JazzWeek, on NPR's JazzWorks, Jim Wilke's Jazz After Hours, and Tom Hull's (Village Voice) top jazz CDs list.

His own first album in 2002 was The Sound of a Dry Martini: Remembering Paul Desmond, with Los Angeles's Acoustic Jazz Quartet: Jamie Findlay, guitar; Dean Koba, drums; Zac Matthews, bass. Next was Stay Cool featuring tenor saxophonist David Sills, with Matthews and Koba. The Brent Jensen/ Rob Walker Quintet included Walker on flugelhorn, and the Grammy-nominated New Stories Trio of Marc Seales, piano; Doug Miller, bass; and John Bishop on drums. Trios has two different rhythm sections, Findlay and Matthews, and Miller and Bishop, with Findlay's guitar instead of a piano offering a change in texture on each track to the next. The set includes 'Beautiful Love' and 'Bemsha Swing'.

Like most of the best albums, Jensen's mix standards and originals. On One More Mile in 2007 with Seattle musicians Bill Anschell on piano, Jeff Johnson on bass and Bishop on drums, Jensen plays soprano exclusively. The opener is 'Sweet And Lovely', setting the tone nicely; Johnson's 'E.J.' is a little uptempo, and on a slowish version of Dizzy Gillespie's 'Birks' Works' (arranged by Anschell) Jensen begins playing so low that he almost sounds like a clarinet, and it sounds like a new tune, but intensely familiar. Later, on Anschell's tune 'Forsaken', Jensen's very first note (on the soprano, which is supposed to be difficult to play in tune) is so accurately meant that the simple, plaintive tune goes straight to the heart. The next album was We Couldn't Agree More, a duo with Anschell, followed by Blueprints in 2012, a trio with Anschell and adding Chris Symer on bass.

Bud's Jazz Records was a Seattle fixture for many years, but it was a small store and could not make quantity orders required by major distributors, so it was sometimes difficult to stock new releases, adding to the many problems of retail music. It closed in April 2008, but not before it did us a big favor by hipping us to Brent Jensen.