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.”