Jansen leads a strong group of musicians who were handpicked for the album and jive together well during ensemble work and stand out during frequent solos. Bassist Dezron Douglas gets the first nod to take front and center on a Jansen original, a beboppin’ “Stacey’s Pace.” Trumpeter Duane Eubanks follows up while drummer Ralph Peterson sets the tune’s ferocious tempo and excitedly smashes his way through the entire selection. His drums and Jansen’s soaring baritone share a flair for intensity.
When it’s time to swing, as on Jansen’s “Relaxin’ with Jessica” and “Angela’s Aggravation,” trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis is the man for the job. His easy gait warms both tunes with some nice piano articulations by Zaccai Curtis, who is super solid in every style.
The low tones of Jansen’s bari accent the mournfulness of his ballad “Soul Loss,” which is presented in a quartet format. His pain is felt through his horn and the slow pace of the song.
“Bucket Full of Soul,” a 1968 groove by drummer William Carney Jr., remains in the era including essential honking by Jansen. Most of the band members get their pens out for the title track that gives the players free and creative rein. They all take advantage of the openness though none more so than Jansen, who moves from a certain spirituality to finally taking it out.
Common Ground represents a mutual understanding of jazz music by this diverse group of dedicated musicians. They share the language.