“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.” –Downbeat Magazine
For the past ten years, saxophonist and composer Christine Jensen has cemented herself as one of Canada’s most acclaimed female composers. Thus far, her career includes a catalog of compositions as a leader for small ensembles, and a role as a co-leader in the more recent configuration of Nordic Connect– a group formed with her sister Ingrid Jensen and Swedish pianist Maggi Olin. However, it was in the ’90’s, while Jensen was still an undergrad, which she really started to establish herself as a composer. During this time, she found prominent success after composing the title-track for her sister’s debut album, Vernal Fields. The effort went on to win Jensen a Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy) and it was this early recognition that compelled her to keep writing.
Fast forward to 2011, and Jensen is presenting her debut effort for Justin Time Records, Treelines, a collection of works performed by her 18-piece jazz orchestra, featuring some of Canada’s most progressive improvising musicians. Treelines adds another layer to Jensen’s progression as an artist and composer, who is well known for writing specifically for the musicians she plays and records with. Her ability to create intimate dialogues amongst the players within the context of her compositions makes her work a pleasure for musicians to play. During the Treelines recording sessions, she collaborated with special guests on the repertoire, including her sister and acclaimed trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and saxophonist and composer Joel Miller. The textures and orchestrations throughout the album are representative of the strong influence of artists like Maria Schneider and Jim McNeely. The comparison to Schneider’s music, specifically, is apparent while listening to Jensen’s entire catalog of music. However, Jensen has retained a unique style over the years and Treelines is no exception.
The album’s lead off track, “Dancing Sunlight” channels the energy of Schneider’s music, all while retaining a unique creativity, which sets her apart from her contemporaries.
The tempo and rhythm of “Arbutus” is influenced by Jensen’s travels via motorboat, along the Canadian tree-lined coast. Conversely, “Red Cedar” takes Jensen from an ocean view, to her memories of climbing trees; the steady bass line creeps along, with the improvisations following suit, though at a more unpredictable pace.
The instrumental melodies in “Western Yew” have Jensen reflecting on family and provide a type of lyrical quality, reminiscent of living in the country and enjoying campfire sing-a-longs.
Among the eight original compositions on Treelines, Joel Miller’s “Dropoff” is a piece that transformed from a simple piano motive, to a full arrangement for Jensen’s big band. The composition retains the themes and pulls from the same inspiration that most of Jensen’s compositions do: Canadian environment and the ocean. Miller explains, “I wanted this arrangement to be a tribute to our shared love for the ocean; hers the Pacific, mine the Atlantic of course. In terms of her set of music I thought it could be the point where trees meet the ocean, like where we meet every summer at her family house on the Sunshine Coast in B.C.”
The sixth track on the album, “Dark and Stormy Blues” offers a unique style to listeners. Jensen describes the piece as, “A reggae blues that has always been a fun jam tune for the band. After writing the basic blues of the first half, I thought that it would be fun to depart into a double time vamp that is quite opposite of the opening groove. The solos between Ingrid and Kenny are by a Joel Miller/Stravinsky-inspired shout chorus by the band.”
“Seafever” was written at a time when Jensen was homesick in Paris, and serves as a dedication to her mother and her love for the ocean. Congruently, the final track, “Vernal Suite,” was originally written for her sister Ingrid’s album of the same name. The piece sees Jensen coming full-circle, taking a tune originally written for a small group and expanding it for her first big band recording.
One presumes a type of connectivity between being a player and composer, although Jensen acknowledges a more linear outlook when it comes to composing. She explains, “Composing seems to have chosen me, and it’s become a passion to express myself. As a composer my progress has been steady, which probably differs from a lot of musicians of my generation who burst out as players first. 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.”
Born in Sechelt, British Columbia, and raised within Nanaimo’s stellar music community, Jensen graduated from McGill University’s jazz performance program in 1994. Since then she has traveled extensively, performing and composing her works in a diverse array of musical settings, from small to large ensembles. Her music has taken her on more recent voyages, including guest appearances in Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Sweden, Denmark, and Turkey, and a six-month residency in Paris in 2002. Although she has traveled the world and has experienced landscapes that have inspired a myriad of artists, it is still the gorgeous terrain of her homeland that serves as the main inspiration for her new album.
Jensen’s compositions focus on subjects that attempt to depict the spirit of Canada’s pristine environment on her new album, Treelines. While she has devoted her time to producing and touring her quartet internationally over the past ten years, she has continually augmented her music at home, transporting her compositions through the use of her orchestra. An homage to Canada’s environment, this unique project is certain to garner praise for its timely and important subtext: protecting the unique forests of Jensen’s magnificent native country.
Christine Jensen · Treelines
Justin Time Records · Release Date: March 8, 2011
For more information, please visit Christine Jensen’s webpage: http://www.christinejensenmusic.com
For media information, please contact:
DL Media · 610-667-0501
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