Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Infinitude - the concept of boundless possibility - is at the center of the music of Ingrid and Christine Jensen. Over the past twenty years or so, as trumpeter and saxophonist respectively, the West Canadian sisters have each shaped prolific careers in contemporary jazz, collaborating with influential names such as Clark Terry, Maria Schneider and Terry Lynn Carrington, working with large and small ensembles, and responding brilliantly to various commissions to compose for jazz orchestras around the globe.

For their Whirlwind Recordings debut, Infinitude, available on January 27, 2017, the Jensens have realized a long-held ambition - to write for and perform in the more intimate setting of a quintet, combining their intuitive, sibling trust with the creativity of renowned guitarist Ben Monder, and the foundational artistry of bassist Fraser Hollins and drummer Jon Wikan. The particular rapport within this grouping is expressed by Christine (composer of half of this album's material), describing the environment as being less about soloing, and with an emphasis on the question, "how are we going to dive into this pool and swim together?" The resulting immersion, recorded at Studio Pierre Marchand in Montreal over two days, sounds both live and organic, with Ingrid confirming her close relationship with her sister: "It doesn't actually feel like we're producing. We already have this flow which continues as we perform together - we can find space, and craziness, and find our way in and out of it, as well." 

The conversational feel which pervades this album's sixty- eight minutes is illustrated in opening track, "Blue Yonder" (Christine Jensen), where Ingrid's mellifluous trumpet technique (sounded through her custom-created flugel-cupped mouthpiece and 'flumpet' bell) melds with Christine's warm, legato alto to conjure the aura of a wordless vocal. Such grace is echoed by the often understated, though lynchpin presence, of Ben Monder (whose effect is explained by Christine as, "something which is intimate, yet full of the future"); and that same quiet fire is evident in the grittier, rock-tinged "Swirlaround" (Christine Jensen), and a freewheeling, even punkish interpretation of Kenny Wheeler's "Old Time".

The soft, melodic beauty of "Hopes Trail" (Ingrid Jensen) transcends its underlying inspiration of political disillusionment, reinforcing our need to, at least, musically rise above (accentuated by ascending, chromatic soprano); and written for a kindred spirit of Christine's, the chirpy mobility of "Octofolk" (Christine Jensen) features especially connected trumpet and alto adventures, all underpinned by Ben Monder's textures and the spirited rhythm team of Hollins and Wikan. Extended lines in the elegant "Dots and Braids" (Ingrid Jensen) - which reflect Christine's lyrical saxophone persona - are contrasted with shorter statements (also informally referencing Canadian pianist/composer David Braid), while the increasing fullness of buoyant, bossa-infused "Echolalia" (Ben Monder) hints at the sisters' expertise in an orchestral jazz setting. 

"Duo Space" (Ingrid Jensen) and "Trio: Garden Hour" (Christine Jensen) provide a different perspective, their reduced instrumentations and improvisations offering further insight into the deep-seated need of these imaginative musicians to express themselves and search out new sounds in an arena which welcomes such freedom. Describing the experience, Ingrid says: "I need that interaction and empathetic experience which comes from playing good gigs with good people; a creative outpouring of my soul. With this line-up and these compositions, it's really easy to channel the freer ideas that are still in the context of the music, but which provide us with the ability to go to that place where we all feel like we're most ourselves - and that truly is a gift." As Christine concludes: "What Ingrid and I have worked on together for so long has now finally been documented in a special way that includes some surprises, especially with our choice of the wonderful Ben Monder - when he says, 'I'm gonna play'... you just know that it's going to be something real special and meaningful. For us, with Infinitude, this is just the beginning."

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