"Homecoming" is an apt title for trombonist John Jensen's new album. After all he's surrounded by friends who not only share his taste for pop standards but his ability to revitalize them. There's nothing fancy or superfluous here, just straight-ahead, small combo jazz performed with care and spirit.
The choice of tunes underscores Jensen's affection for enduring melodies. Among the tunesmiths represented here are the Gershwins (an unusually brisk "But Not for Me"); Duke Ellington (a soulfully burnished "In a Sentimental Mood"); Johnny Mercer and Jimmy Van Heusen (a lightly swinging "I Thought About You"); and Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne (a bright, finger-popping "Time After Time").
Jensen is careful to give the melodies their due, favoring a warm yet agile tone, and the arrangements leave plenty of room for his bandmates to shine. None shine brighter than pianist Hod O'Brien, a constant delight. The band also includes bassist Steve Gilmore (who plays a key role in coloring the sparse arrangement of "In a Sentimental Mood"), guitarist Steve Abshire, drummer Brooks Tegler and percussionist Sam "Seguito" Turner. The casual atmosphere and the idiomatic swing pulse laid down by Tegler and Abshire make for a series of truly engaging performances.
Appearing Tuesday at Blues Alley.
To hear a free Sound Bite from John Jensen, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8126. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)