Personnel: Bill Anschell (piano); Brent Jensen (soprano saxophone).
Audio Mixer: Bill Anschell.
Liner Note Author: Brent Jensen.
Recording information: SophiaHat Studios, Seattle, WA (06/20/2011).
Photographer: Daniel Sheehan.
Since Bill Anschell moved from Atlanta to the Pacific Northwest, he's had many recording opportunities as a result of the busy jazz scene in the area. One result was his working relationship with saxophonist Brent Jensen, with whom he had recorded an earlier duo CD (We Couldn't Agree More) and a quartet session (One More Time). To find a different approach for this session, they invited bassist Chris Symer, who not only brings great chops but considerable skills as an arranger, though most of the sketches resulted from in-studio discussions on the day of recording. Symer's creative treatment of Miles Davis' "All Blues," which uses only the skeleton of the famous modal theme, allows Anschell to play a sparse, darting accompanying line to Jensen's ethereal soprano, as the bassist lays down a percolating, unpredictable line. Duke Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me" is more commonly performed by jazz vocalists, but the trio has no problem putting a fresh face on this familiar ballad, keeping its lyricism while adding playful dissonance with occasional hints at the composer's stride roots. "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise" is a frequent jam session favorite, but often played uptempo. The trio's deliberate arrangement better showcases the piece's lyricism, while returning to the ballad format also gives the musicians a better opportunity to demonstrate their considerable skills as improvisers. Likewise, "Star Eyes" has long been a standard in jazz circles, though they focus on the famous introductory vamp recorded by Charlie Parker, with the chord changes briefly played before the piece takes off for outer space then returns to familiar ground, with Jensen focusing on the theme as Anschell and Symer continue their explorations. "I.O.U" is a perky, Latin-flavored piece that sounds a lot like a well-disguised reworking of the chord changes to "Stella by Starlight." These three exceptional veterans are all deserving of much wider recognition, and this rewarding effort merits a follow-up recording. ~ Ken Dryden