Man, do I miss John Klemmer! He bowed out of the music world, perhaps permanently, about 15 years ago, but his Barefoot Ballet remains my all-time favorite romantic jazz side. When I listen to Ravel, Debussy, Satie, and Vangelis' L'Apocalypse des Animaux, I always think of Barefoot. That warm smooth golden tone of his was highly seductive, and Lenny Sendersky has inherited much of that as well as some of Klemmer's more adventurous sorties into the energetically mellifluous, straight-ahead, and beyond, as the guy can also be-bop and wail when he feels like it, just as John could, well shown in Horizons. Then there's Tony Romano, who presents an interesting collision between earlier and later guitar influences. His chordal technique is highly reminiscent of the Charlie Byrd school while his leads are deliciously Earl Klugian.
Steve LaSpina remains mostly in the background but when he steps into the light, watch out as a very literate cluster of bass solos come from out of nowhere, luminescent. Drummer Matt Kane, on the other, is often on fire, more restrained in the ballads of course, but as capable as they come, and as inventive. Trumpeter Randy Brecker sits in on three cuts and, in Sophie, gets very Milesy / Stanko-esque. Then there's Cleve Douglass and his Jarreauvian vocalese in My Father's Island and the now-standard Nature Boy, stripped down to a spare beautiful near-waltz, almost a slumber. And catch Sendersky's reedy high register in the closing…like a counter-tenor singing wistful in the distance. I was so deceived by the laryngeal quality he attained that I had to turn puzzlingly back to the liner notes for backing vocalists before I realized what was really going on. And don't ignore Joe Locke's vibes either, an instrument always criminally underplayed in any music but thankfully put up front in three cuts here.
The main voice, though, is Sendersky's. Sax is just that way, it overpowers everything, and more than a few esteemed forums are noticing just how rich his work is, All About Jazz one of them, while Just Jazz Guitar has taken to praise of Romano and his broad harmonic palette. The two work well together, write well, and integrate the entire affair masterfully, though I sure could do with more soloing from LaSpina and have to suspect that were Sendersky to go nuts on a few songs in the future, it would show more fully what's been only hinted at sometimes here. He's a young guy and reached to an enviable estate already, but one can't help but sense even more beneath it all. Regardless, Desert Flower goes a long way to aid in the current rescue of the saxophone from the poppy dippy narrow confines, not to mention the oft horrific Jazz Lite forums, it suffered too long under and back to its true legitimacies.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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