Who are these Jensen sisters after all?

Okay - so I have to declare some bias here. I've had the good fortune of working with both Ingrid and Christine Jensen. Ingrid's one of my favourite trumpeters; Christine's writing for big band I think is some of the best in Canada (and the JUNO Awards have agreed twice). All that said - bias or no - I'm pretty excited that the Jensen sisters are coming to Toronto, along with guitarist Ben Monder, bassist Fraser Hollins and drummer Jon Wikan, for a project called Infinitude.

Sisters Ingrid and Christine Jensen - born in Vancouver, raised in Nanaimo and whose world travels have led them to settle in New York and Montreal, respectively - have often shared the stage over the years. Ingrid has been the featured guest on the two JUNO Award winning albums from the Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra; they lead the international jazz group Nordic Connect along with pianist Maggi Olin. But for Infinitude, they come together for the first time as co-leaders of their own project. And the music serves each musician's strengths well: Christine's broad compositional style - I can always picture a Canadian landscape in her music - is the perfect setting for Ingrid's melodic and fiery soloing. Add guitar master Ben Monder into the mix and, well, the results are exciting. Here on "Margareta", you get a taste of what each musician brings to the collaboration:

As a trumpeter, there are a few different aspects of Ingrid's playing which stick out for me. All players at the top of their game can get around their respective instruments with ease. But Ingrid has a flexibility on the trumpet which I feel is unique - one minute at the bottom of the range, the next minute near the top, with no perceptible effort expended in bridging the distance. Every note is clean and clear; her sound pure and round. And her technique is ferocious - weaving long lines, moving in and out of harmony, through all registers of the instrument. But melody remains at the core of her improvising: her playing seems rarely to be flashy just for the sake of being flashy - it is always in the pursuit of creating interesting melody. Finding one example to demonstrate all of these aspects is tricky - but check out this performance with Marianne Trudel's trio. When Ingrid enters (around 5:00), she helps to take the tune to its exciting conclusion, carefully crafting a solo which builds to its final flourish:

Christine Jensen has earned international acclaim as a composer, and rightfully so. As I suggested above, to me her writing evokes the lush landscape of various Canadian locales; it's also melodically and harmonically interesting and a joy to perform. She has released two albums with her Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra, and both have won JUNO Awards. Composers must choose their notes carefully - in the best writing (outside of improvised sections), not much happens by chance. I feel that Christine's playing as a saxophonist is similar - melodic content and a lush sound are at the core; each solo is a composition unto itself. According to Christine, "Composing seems to have chosen me, and it’s become a passion to express myself...I’m pretty lucky because composing has given me long-term growth, while improvising involves seizing the moment. Combining these two elements is the beauty of being a contemporary jazz artist." This video from a performance of the orchestra at jazzahead in 2014 aptly demonstrates her composing; on "Treelines" (starting just before 24:00), you can hear Christine in action as a soloist:

Infinitude can be described as the concept of boundless possibility. And with this particular group of musicians, the definition is particularly fitting. Infinitude takes the stage at Jazz Bistro on Thursday June 29 at 7 pm and 10 pm. Buy tickets now or, for more information go to their concert page.

I'll leave the last word(s) to Ingrid and Christine themselves:


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