The “shadow” that visionary architect Frank Lloyd Wright talked about—the one that separated yesterday from tomorrow—is one that moves ceaselessly and it is useful to note that it passes over everyone who inhabits the earth. What happens to those who are moving in the evanescent glow of this shadow is that they feel committed to change represented by the proverbial “φ” as in Golden Ratio; or in the Fibonacci Sequence is that they are also able to inhabit, as Christine Jensen does in Habitat mathematical yet magical points on the golden rectangles in an icosahedron. Musically speaking that represents something of the spectral dimension; something that is barely heard but wondrously suggested by notes, whether dominant or augmented, diminished. Ms. Jensen’s music has exhibited all of these characteristics succeeding, under the strictest scrutiny to not only pivot on those magical points, but also offer more than just a glimpse into her commitment to her art, exhibiting sharp socio-political judgement that seems to fall on the right side of history.
To be sure, Christine Jensen’s Habitat, is far from that which is rigidly programmatic and stilted. Rather it resembles in its geometry, something that is many splendored and in constant motion. Its lines leap off planes to join other lines that leap off other planes, there to reconstitute in harmonic progressions that entwine like the double helix of a musical DNA that is subtle and nimble and barely discernable. But in actual fact it is arthroscopically formed by other lines that shape this gorgeous musical icosahedron. That might just be the easy part. The more difficult one is to breathe life into the microtones that make up the music played on a grand palette, which many-splendored colours and hues illuminate the music. For this Ms. Jensen conducts an orchestra of musicians who are more than up to the task of what is magical. While it may be informed by a mystical shape, the music comes from all that is living and breathing and tells stories of courage and valour, as well as those that are somewhat tragic, and finally those that are epic. These musical tales are eminently suited to the form that the music takes each making what could only be described as epic musical tapestry on one such rectangle of the now fabulous icosahedron.
The sweeping vistas of “Treelines,” Blue Yonder” and “Sweet Adelphi” are these rectangles, awash with colour and breathtaking tonal values, timbres and textures. On the former, Ms. Jensen’s sister, the well-known trumpeter takes charge of the musical palette and daubing colours using fine brush strokes, while the rest of the brass and woodwinds ensures that the broad strokes are filled in using warmer and more viscous colours and all musicians combine to complete the astounding picture. “Blue Yonder” is made memorable by the skip and shuffle of the Afro-Peruvian Festejo rhythms. The astute listener will discern, in the greens and golden browns, the magnificent colours of Peru as a condor surveys its flight path from its aerial promontory. “Sweet Adelphi” is more down to earth and completes the third rectangular swathe on the icosahedron. The music seems to cast a proverbial eye back, only to look forward with nostalgic, but a generous modicum of excitement. The rest of the music the rumbling gravitas of “Tumbledown,” the courageous “Nishiyuu” and the dramatic “Intersection” criss-cross the ends of each invisible rectangle enjoining the music with epic stories that dwell in the real and the spectral realms of this musical geometry. And it is in this dramatic musical geometry that the fabulous shadow is cast, moving ever forward for the music and for the musicians on this project especially for its creator, Christine Jensen.
Track List: Treelines; Tumbledown; Blue Yonder; Nishiyuu; Intersection; Sweet Adelphi.
Personnel: Christine Jensen: conductor, soprano saxophone; Donny Kennedy: lead alto and soprano saxophone, flute; Erik Hove: alto saxophone, flute; Joel Miller: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Chet Doxas: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Samuel Blais: baritone saxophone, clarinet; David Grott: lead trombone; Jean-Nicolas Trottier: trombone; Muhammed Abdul Al-Khabyyr: trombone; Bob Ellis: bass trombone (1, 3, 4, 5); Jean Sébastion Vachon: bass trombone (2, 6); Dave Martin: tuba, euphonium (1 – 4); Jocelyn Couture: lead trumpet; Bill Mahar: trumpet; Dave Mossing: trumpet; Aron Doyle: trumpet; Ingrid Jensen: trumpet (1, 3, 5, 6); John Roney: piano; Ken Bibace: electric guitar; Fraser Hollins: upright bass; Richard Irwin: drums; Dave Gossage: native flute (4).
Label: Justin Time Records | Release date: September 2013
*Photo of Christine Jensen by Randy Cole
About Christine Jensen
Montreal-based saxophonist and composer Christine Jensen has been described as, “an original voice on the international jazz scene… [and] one of Canada’s most compelling composers.” According to Greg Buium of Downbeat Magazine, “Jensen writes in three dimensions, with a quiet kind of authority that makes the many elements cohere. Wayne Shorter, Maria Schneider and Kenny Wheeler come to mind.”
Jensen is equally at home performing in small and large ensemble settings. Her opus, Treelines – The Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra on Justin-Time Records, won her the 2011 Juno Award for Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year, along with Quebec’s Opus Award for jazz recording of the year. Downbeat magazine described it as“…a stunning orchestral debut… ****1/2 stars”. She recently performed at various jazz festivals across Canada as well as at Dizzy’s Jazz Club-Lincoln Center in New York with this ensemble. Jensen has previously released three small ensemble recordings: Collage (2000), A Shorter Distance (2002), and Look Left (2006), all on the Effendi label. Along with her sister, New York -based trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, and close friend and long-time musical cohort, Swedish pianist, Maggi Olin, she co-leads the group, Nordic Connect. They released their first joint effort in 2007 entitled Flurry and followed up in 2010 with Spirals. The group has toured Canada, the US and Scandinavia extensively over the past five years.
Jensen took up roots, leaving Nanaimo for Montreal to get her first degree from McGill University in jazz performance in 1994. She followed this up by completing her Master’s in Jazz Performance in 2006. Christine has honed her skills as a saxophonist under the tutelage of an impressive list of leading musicians including Pat La Barbera, Kenny Werner, Jim McNeely, Remi Bolduc, Dick Oatts and Steve Wilson.
As an adjudicator, clinician, and instructor at McGill, she is influencing the next generation of composers and players. In her travels abroad, she has shared her love of music and invaluable experience with young jazz enthusiasts around the world, from Norway to Peru, Turkey to Montreal, and back home on the West Coast. She has always been active in jazz education, leading clinics and workshops and adjudicating. Over the years, she has collaborated with a diverse array of musicians, including Geoffrey Keezer, Lenny, Pickett, Brad Turner, Karl Jannuska, François Théberge, Gary Versace, Donny McCaslin Steve Amirault, Franck Amsallem, in addition to her long-term musical relationships with sister Ingrid and partner, saxophonist-composer Joel Miller.
Composing has been a constant throughout her career — while she was still an undergrad at McGill, she contributed her compositions to her sister’s debut album, Vernal Fields (Enja Records), which went on to win a Juno Award. This early recognition of her talent as a composer spurred her to keep writing. Jensen performs and records regularly with her sister Ingrid — they have played together all over the world from Seattle’s Jazz Alley to New York’s Museum of Modern Art, from an SS Norway Jazz Cruise to a tour of Japan in 1997. Noted for her ability to transfer the intimate sound of a quartet into larger ensembles, Jensen’s music has been performed by ensembles around the globe, including the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, Germany; the UMO Big Band, Finland; and the McGill Jazz Orchestra, Montreal. She was honoured with an Opus Award for Jazz Concert of the Year in 2006, from the Quebec Council for the Arts, for leading the 18-member Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra, with special guest Donny McCaslin.
In 2002, Jensen was awarded a six-month composition residency in Paris at the Québec Studio in the Cité Internationale des Arts, sponsored by the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. Upon her return to Canada, she toured extensively with her quartet, reworking the material that resulted in the recording, Look Left. The strong rapport among band members (pianist Dave Restivo, bassist Fraser Hollins, drummer Greg Ritchie, and frequent guest guitarist Ken Bibace), combined with their shared musical influences, has allowed her music to continually evolve along with her voice as a composer through her original repertoire.
Christine Jensen was born in Sechelt, British Columbia, in 1970, growing up in Nanaimo among some of Canada’s finest musicians, including Phil Dwyer, Diana Krall, blues guitarist, David Gogo, and her sister Ingrid. Her pianist/mother raised her daughters on music, exposing them to everything from Chopin to Broadway to Big Bands. Jensen’s first love was the piano, developing an individual style influenced by two greats: “I freaked out over Oscar Peterson and … Bill Evans was a big epiphany when I was a teenager, as a musician who created an impressionistic sound. “Once she started studying the saxophone at age 12, she quickly grew to love it as she realized that she could create her own voice through that instrument. The past few years have kept Jensen busy on the international stage, taking her music to India, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Denmark, Mexico, Sweden, Turkey, and Haiti. In 2007, she performed with her quartet at Dizzy’s Club at Lincoln Center, as well as at Burlington’s “Discover Jazz” Festival. Jensen is frequently heard across the country live in concert on CBC radio and Radio-Canada’s Espace-Musique.