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Bonnie J Jensen - The Sapphire Tree

South China Morning Post - Robin Lyman - April 8, 2007  (Review Section)

...Pianist Alister Spence, who also handles Fender Rhodes and organ, contributes a fine solo to a version of U2ís I still Havenít Found What Iím Looking For.

But Jensen takes over the keyboard for one of the better jazz-inflected cover versions of Jimi Hendrixís Little Wing Iíve heard in recent years (there have perhaps been too many, but she brings something fresh to it), for two of her originals and for the late Irish songwriter Noel Brazilís Columbus. The best-known version of the tune was previously Mary Blackís.

As always with Jensen, itís an interesting set of interpretations that pays due respect to heritage in the choice of standards and compositions by jazz musicians, but breaks them up with contemporary composition. Jensen once cited Bonnie Raitt as an influence, and like Raitt she generally chooses, with rare intelligence, songs that suit her voice. Both apply the same high standards to their own compositions.

Her phrasing on The Sapphire Tree puts me in mind of Joni Mitchell rather than Diana Krall, with whom she tends to be compared, and she digs down deep into the blues for Aeroblue.

Her record companyís press release says the other original, Neon Soliloquy, is reminiscent of Miles Davisí soundtrack for Louis Malleís film Ascenseur pour LíEchaffaud. It isnít particularly, although it does feature a muted trumpet played by Miroslav Bukovsky, which was one of Davisí signature sounds. It also reminds me more of Mitchell during her jazz period, performing songs such as Furry Sings the Blues.

The straight-ahead jazz tunes are well chosen. Dizzy Gillespieís A Night in Tunisia, when Jon Hendricksí lyrics, is a vocal tour de force and an instrumental one for the band. Night and Day and Angel Eyes are tastefully interpreted and she revisits her bluesy side with Ainít No Use, which features some effective guitar from Jeremy Sawkins.

The album concludes with Lead The Way, written by Brian Blade, who has also supplied sympathetic percussion for songwriters such as Mitchell and Bob Dylan.

Jensen is backed by an all-star lineup of Australian jazz musicians: Miroslav Bukovsky, who also wrote the horn arrangements, Alister Spence, Jeremy Sawkins, Craig Walters on Saxophone, Jonathan Zwartz on bass and Fabian Hevia on drums and percussion.

The Australian - John McBeath - February, 2007

    Sydney vocalist and pianist Bonnie J Jensen retains most of the quality jazz players in this septet from her previous two albums. She's composed three tracks, collaborated on arrangements and plays accompanying piano on several. There are standards, some unusual vocal pieces and one down-home blues number, "Ain't No Use".

    Her style is nightclub chanteuse, drawing on many influences, sounding sometimes reminiscent of Renee Geyer, at others [times] traces of Peggy Lee or Sarah Vaughan emerge.

    Soloists have adequate space: saxophonist Craig Walters contributes sympathetically, Jeremy Sawkins delivers effortless guitar and Miroslav Bukovsky's broad-toned trumpet is super-heated on "A Night in Tunisia", a challenging vocal piece, cleverly arranged with unusual variations. Jensen's title ballad, an original, displays a talent for both musical composition and poetic lyrics, evident too on "Neon Soliloquy": "Like a diamond in the river, as precious as African rain, this glimpse of bliss will sustain you - again and again."

Bonnie J Jensen - The Sapphire Tree 


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