Russian-born saxophonist Lenny Sendersky and New York-based guitarist Tony Romano met at a jam session in Copenhagen back in 2010 and began playing together, touring and working on their original compositions. Desert Flower, their new album, gives listeners a chance to hear what they’ve been doing. If you like your jazz smooth and melodic, you’ll love it.
Sendersky, whether he is playing alto or soprano, has a sweet tone, but he can growl with the best of them when necessary. Romano is a guitarist with imagination and the chops to go with it. Their basic ensemble includes Steve LaSpina on bass and Matt Kane on drums, but they get some great help on several tracks from trumpeter Randy Brecker and Joe Locke on vibes. There are even a couple of vocals from Cleve Douglass.
Of the 10 tracks, eight are originals, split four each. The other two are covers of Duke Ellington’s “My Father’s Island” and the classic “Nature Boy.” Both feature Douglas’ vocals. The original material runs from Latin-flavored tunes like Sendersky’s cool “Chet” (which opens the album) and Romano’s “Tango” (which closes it). There is also the swinger “Fruit Tea,” with Locke working the vibes, and the soulful ballad “Sophie,” with Brecker up front.
The album is a musical delight. You can get a taste of the music at Sendersky’s website.
It is interesting to compare Desert Flower with the self-produced album of the Finck Ball Project, It’s Not That Far, released last October. Like Romano, Finck is a guitarist. Ball, like Sendersky, plays sax (although in this case tenor). They are working for the most part in a quartet with bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Adam Nussbaum, although they are joined by a guest on three tracks—of all people, the seemingly ubiquitous Randy Brecker.
Moreover, almost as if there were a programming formula, the set features eight original compositions, four by each of the front men. In this case there is only one additional standard tune, Jerome Kern’s “The Way You Look Tonight.” The music itself is fairly traditional bop-flavored jazz, perhaps a bit edgier overall than the mellower vibe of Sendersky and Romano, but it is mostly a question of degree.
Finck and Ball are no slouches when it comes to mellow, as in Finck’s “East 86th” and on “Gentle Soul” (with Brecker). While playing with Brecker on Ball’s “Conundrum” and “Geppetto,” they show their edge.