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Motives by Wellstone Conspiracy

Wellstone Conspiracy is just another example of how many great jazz musicians there are throughout the United States. This quartet combines Idaho-based Brent Jensen on soprano saxophone, with Seattle musicians Bill Anschell on piano, bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer John Bishop.

Brent Jensen is the director of jazz studies at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls. He was a winner of the Woodwinds on Fire talent search conducted by Jazziz magazine in 1996 and has performed with a variety of jazz artists including Gene Harris, Bill Watrous, Lew Soloff, John Stowell, Bobby Shew, the Manhattan Transfer and the Lionel Hampton Big Band. Pianist Anschell spent time in Atlanta as Jazz Coordinator for the Southern Arts Federation (SAF). During this time in Atlanta he also worked with Nnenna Freelon as her pianist, arranger and musical director. Other artists he has worked with include Richard Davis, Ron Carter, Benny Golson and Russell Malone.

Jeff Johnson has worked with Philly Joe Jones, Hal Galper, Bud Shank, Chet Baker, Lew Tabackin, Charlie Rouse, Mark Murphy and Tierney Sutton. Drummer Bishop has appeared on over 80 albums and worked with artists like Bobby McFerrin, Lee Konitz, Slide Hampton, Benny Golson, George Cables, Kenny Werner, Sonny Fortune, Bobby Hutcherson, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Tom Harrell, and Steve Swallow, to list a few.

This recording is just a good old-fashioned blowing session. Seven of the straight-ahead tunes are originals by members of the group, with the only standard being Billy Strayhorn’s "A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing." All of the music is in the hard-bop and post-bop jazz language, and all of the members of the ensemble are accomplished musicians in their own right. Johnson and Bishop, who have worked together frequently, have a real simpatico relationship. You can tell that just by the slightest nod of the head or rhythmic figuration they are able to change feel on a dime. Their actions are always in coordination with each other, and instantaneous. They exhibit this most especially on "Portrait" and "Doop Dee Doop."

Anschell can be a fiery pianist, as on his own self-penned "Turbulator," as well as be commanding when laying back and just playing in the groove. Jensen, who plays just soprano on this recording, sometimes will thin his sound for effect, as on "Turbulator," or play with a warm reedy sound full of thick overtones, as on "Stories We Hold."

If there is a flaw with this recording, and this is a minor one, is that the compositions don’t show off the abilities of the group to the fullest extent possible. While one wouldn’t want to hear these incredible musicians just play standards, perhaps ripping up some thicker harmonic material and neglected chestnuts by Duke Pearson, as well as others, might play perfectly into their hands. That small negativism aside, this group plays with a heart and soul lacking in many working jazz bands.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Wellstone Conspiracy
  • CD Title: Motives
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2010
  • Record Label: Origin
  • Tracks: Bye Bye Blackwell, Phindango, Anne Rose, Turbulator, Portrait, Stories We Hold, Doop Dee Doop and A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing
  • Musicians: Brent Jensen (soprano saxophone), Bill Anschell (piano), Jeff Johnson (bass), John Bishop (drums)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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